The quake victims will have to spend yet another rainy season in makeshift shelters already damaged by the previous monsoon and the snowfall in Gorkha district
Nine months after the devastating April and May earthquakes the government has officially begun the mega reconstruction campaign. President Bidhya Devi Bhandari laid the foundation stone of the reconstruction campaign at Rani Pokhari and Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli at Bungmati, a traditional Newari town in Lalitpur, amidst separate functions attended by top leaders of the major political parties. The leaders of the major political parties have said they would cooperate with the government for the reconstruction works and stressed the need to make such work transparent. PM Oli has called upon all political parties to mobilize their cadres in the quake affected districts to make it a grand success. When the mega earthquake measuring 7.6 in the Richter scale struck the country in a hiatus of about 80 years it left around 9000 people dead, partially or completely damaged more than half a million public and private houses, mostly in 14 hilly districts injuring 22,000 people who are still recuperating. The mega campaign has been initiated on the National Earthquake Safety Day.
In order to expedite the reconstruction and rehabilitation work the Legislature-Parliament has passed a law authorizing the National Authority for Reconstruction (NAR) and the government has also appointed its chief executive to oversee the overall reconstruction works which will last for five years. The development partners and friendly countries have pledged US$ 4.4 billion for the reconstruction and rehabilitation works. But the pledged amount could not be utilized on time as the major political parties locked horns over the ordinance and passage of the Bill related to NAR and a consultative body.
NAR CEO Sushil Gyawali has said that the reconstruction work of the damaged public infrastructure would begin soon while it would take another four months to initiate the reconstruction of the private houses and relocation of the settlements from the fragile areas. He has admitted that NAR would not be able to kick-start reconstruction of the damaged private houses, as it would need to collect fresh information about the actual damage of these in urban and rural areas. Nine months after the devastating quake, NAR chief has said he would mobilise 1,500 engineers in the quake-affected districts to assess actual damage of the private and public structures. It means that the quake victims will have to spend yet another rainy season in makeshift shelters already damaged by the previous monsoon and the latest snowfall in Gorkha district. The actual reconstruction work will begin only after engineers come up with detailed information about the destruction from the affected areas. It also indicates that the need assessment made by the erstwhile National Planning Commission was inaccurate and it was made only to present it at the International Conference on Nepal’s Reconstruction held on June 22. The reconstruction work could not start as per expectations due to the prolonged blockade on the Nepal-India borders. Now, NAR should come out with its comprehensive plans for the reconstruction of the damaged private houses, relocation of the others at safer places and temporary relief measures to the victims.
Tale of public toilets
There is a dearth of public toilets which is an inconvenience. Most government offices and even public places like bus stops lack toilets. The few that exist are not sufficient to meet the need for hygiene. Many schools too lack toilets as a result of which young girls often skip classes as there are no proper toilets for them. Thus, the news story that more than half-a-dozen public toilets in Bagkhor in Dadeldhura are in a dilapidated condition even before their use is something to ponder over. The government had spent Rs. 10 lakh for the construction of each of them, and it has been wasted. Lack of a proper sense of sanitation and care as well as corrupt tendency is responsible for this plight.
Since the toilets are lacking many travellers have no other option than to relieve themselves in the open which can be embarrassing and is also uncivil and unhygienic. The few toilets that are open for the general public are foul-smelling due to lack of proper maintenance. As such, more public toilets should be built with a sense of urgency that conform to certain minimum standards.
A version of this article appears in print on January 18, 2016 of The Himalayan Times.