EDITORIAL: Cause for concern

What is required now is to learn from the mistakes and move ahead resolutely to finish the reconstruction work

Two years has just passed since the major earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale shook the country, killing over nine thousand people, injuring or maiming about three times that figure, destroying or damaging about eight lakh houses and buildings in 31 districts, both residential and public, including those of archaeological importance as well as those listed as World Heritage sites. Massive rescue and relief operations were launched for many weeks, involving domestic governmental agencies, including of course the security agencies, and non-government sector, and also involving the men and materials of foreign countries. Nepalese living abroad too contributed what they could towards relief. After the completion of rescue and relief efforts, it was said that a massive reconstruction project work would be initiated as soon as possible to repair or rebuild the damaged or destroyed public structures, and also provide substantial assistance to the quake victims to enable them to reconstruct their houses. An international donors’ conference was hurriedly organized in the capital to get commitments of aid, in both loans and grants, in helping the massive post-quake reconstruction. The commitments received were described by the government as ‘very encouraging’.

Assistance for the victims was also specified, and the law was made to create a high-powered National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) to lead and conduct the five-year reconstruction project. Regulations were also made to govern the details. But months were wasted over which party should have a say in appointing CEO of the NRA. All that is history now. But two years down the line, what is the net result? The score is unsatisfactory. Such an evaluation has come even from those in responsible government positions, from the Prime Minister to the CEO of the NRA. The role of the NRA has been less than effective so far, as its CEO himself has admitted. The grim fact is that many victims have been forced to live under tents, through two winters and two rainy seasons. A few thousand victims have built their own houses, fed up with the indefinite wait for the promised government assistance to arrive. More than nine hundred billion rupees was estimated as the total outlay needed to complete the entire reconstruction project. Agreements with donors amounting to 311 billion rupees in aid had been signed. But only 34 billion rupees has so far been spent towards reconstruction.

The figures speak volumes. Regarding public structures, reconstruction had been initiated three months ago, but really it has hardly got off the ground so far. According to the NRA chief, Govinda Raj Pokhrel, the government has yet to collect two-thirds of the reconstruction budget. Other necessary things, such as complicated procedures, lack of human resources and construction materials, as well as provision of soft loans have also posed problems. But these could have been resolved if the authorities had focused on such an urgent mission. The present coalition government, when it came to power, had vowed to provide momentum to the disbursement of the promised assistance to quake victims and the entire reconstruction project. But what has happened so far gives cause for concern. What is required now is to learn from the mistakes and move ahead resolutely to finish the reconstruction work.

Information centre

The government is all set to store all information in the Information Storage Centre in the Department of Information to be managed by the Ministry of Information and Communications. All government information and archives will be centralized so that public can have an easy access whenever they need it. All government related information will be collected from post offices and centralized in the Information Storage Centre. Minister for Information and Communications Surendra Kumar Karki said such a move will guarantee the people’s right

to information.

If this system is timely updated and modernized, people will no longer have to search for other ministries’ websites to acquire information that they need. But the government’s public dissemination system has always been outdated which is not always useful for the public. The Information Centre will cease to prove its relevance when information sought by the people is not available on time. The ministry must tell the public what sort of information the government will upload in the Centre.