Belated action

It’s been more than two months since the devastating earthquake struck Nepal. The monsoon has ravished our hard hit villages making them prone to landslides. Many villages and houses in different districts were swept away by the landslides. This has intensified the sorry plight of the quake survivors living in the hilly areas. Billions of dollars have been pledged through the donors assembly, but relocating the villages at risk is the major challenge now.

The government has recently decided to shift the settlements at high risk in the earthquake affected areas to safer places within fifteen days, which is a belated action. Relocating has been noted to be a good solution while coping with disasters if done in a planned and sustainable way.

Hasty relocations, however, may create failures of the resettlement projects in which the entire livelihood, economy, and cultural values of the community are affected. Forgetting other aspects of relocating projects by being centralized only on geological safety could turn out to be more disastrous. Therefore, a quick solution will not minimize the disaster hazards, rather it will expand the vulnerabilities ultimately leading to failures of the projects. Poor choice of sites for resettlement is one of the most frequently mentioned factors for resettlement failures. Sites selected without proper understanding the various socio-economic factors needed for the people, their welfare and development may fail. Poor sites might be chosen by the concerned authorities favouring the topography that ease the rapid construction to maximize their accessibility to resources ignoring ecological, environmental and the economic concerns of the local people. Rejection of planned resettlement sites has become a culture, as no one can address the diverse needs of people.

Designs which permit the clustering of kin and the old neighborhood that provide sufficient space around settlements for sheds, and agricultural activities help to reduce the trauma followed by disasters.

Traditional houses of our villages have evolved after a long time functional to the needs. Therefore, the design of resettlement houses should be appropriate for domestic activities requiring space for different uses, according to the seasons. Proper site selection, appropriate house design using the knowledge of the local people, understanding their socio-cultural values, economic need and environment consciousness will help make relocation plans successful, otherwise it will foster more disasters.