Victims clueless about resilient homes

Bhotechaur, January 14

Though the government is all set to launch the post-quake recovery drive coinciding with the Earthquake Day on Saturday; earthquake survivors of the worst affected district of Sindhupalchowk seem disconnected with this crusade.

A major theme of this post-disaster reconstruction campaign is to make people aware about building resilient homes.

Almost all quake survivors now seem aware that they need to build such homes that can withstand destructive temblors like that of April 25 and May 12.

But the irony is most of them have no clue how homes can be built to be quake resistant. “Can we build a resilient house by using locally available mud and stones?” Tek Narayan Chaulagain of Bhotechaur-2, Sindhupalchowk inquired when a UNDP team reached his village today with a public awareness mission to build safe houses.

His concern was quite valid as he had witnessed almost all of the 1,442 houses, mostly built with stone and mud in his VDC collapse  either fully or partially  during the April 25 devastation.

“Of course, houses made with locally available stone and mud can be as safe as those built with bricks, cement and iron-rods,” responded Ashok Pokhrel, an engineer associated with UNDP’s Comprehensive Disaster Risk Management Programme (CDRMP), which has launched a public awareness campaign ‘Safe House’ for making resilient homes, mostly in rural areas of Sindhupalchowk.

Even nine months after the temblor, Bhotechaur denizens are passing nights in huts, temporary shelters of makeshift tents and under tin sheets. So far they have received Rs 25,000 as financial support from the state to make shelters and buy warm clothes.

They are waiting for the next installment of Rs 200,000 to build a resilient home.

“We want to learn what sort of houses we can make with this money,” former chairperson of Bhotechaur VDC Buddi Chaulagain told The Himalayan Times.

“Unfortunately, we have received five to six models and designs of quake-resilient houses whose descriptions are in English.

How can people living in such remote areas understand?” he wondered, further adding that villagers get even more confused when they are briefed with a mix of English and technical terms.

To avoid this, UNDP, in coordination with the Government of Nepal, has launched village-to-village awareness campaign reaching them through mobile vans, where video messages are installed aiming to visually inform local people in Nepali language about resilient homes, its structure, human and other resources required to build it etc.

It also distributes brochures and pamphlets describing different aspects of quake-resistant houses.

“So far we have organised such awareness campaigns at various places of 12 VDCs out of 38 prioritised VDCs in Sindhupalchowk,” said CDRMP’s Pragati Manandhar. “We are considering replicating it in other affected areas.”

Laxman Shrestha, Headmaster of Jalpadevi High School of Bhotechaur-6, said even ‘illiterate’ people can understand things well and make a right choice if campaigners use opinion-leaders to make them aware about models of resilient houses, its costs and other related matters.