The reconstruction work in Nepal has been largely satisfactory though it took one more year than allowed by the law

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli inaugurated the newly-reconstructed iconic Dharahara tower on Saturday, six years after it was destroyed by the devastating Gorkha Earthquake on April 25, 2015. The earthquake measuring 7.8 in magnitude left as many as 9,000 people dead and 23,000 others injured, leaving trails of destruction of both private and public property mostly in the 32 hilly districts of central Nepal.

As many as 60 people were also killed when the historic Dharahara tower, built in 1825, collapsed due to the impact of the tremor. While addressing a function, the PM announced employment opportunities to at least one family member of those who died in the incident. The original 18-storey tower, built by the country's first prime minister, Bhimsen Thapa, was damaged by the 1934 earthquake and later rebuilt to half of its size. The new 22-storey building is approximately 285 feet tall, and it was built at a cost of Rs 3.5 billion mobilising local resources. The new Dharahara tower has a large underground basement with a parking lot for 400 four-wheelers and 700 two-wheelers, besides a library, museum and other recreational facilities in and around 42 ropanis of land. The reconstruction process of the tower started in October 2018. Construction of other parts associated with the tower is expected to be completed within nine months from now, as per the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA), which spearheaded the reconstruction of the historic tower.

During the inauguration, NRA Chief Executive Officer Sushil Gyawali said 93 per cent of the reconstruction works had already been completed and claimed that it was a great success as per the international standard.

Almost all the public schools and health facilities damaged by the quake are on the final stage of their completion. As many as 490 archeological heritage sites have also been reconstructed. The remaining 7 per cent work will be completed by July end. As many as 807,764 beneficiaries have already signed agreements for rebuilding their damaged houses. The NRA has already spent Rs 357 billion for the reconstruction work as of mid-April.

Meanwhile, the RNA has been given the responsibility of designing a 10-year campaign on Disaster Resilient Nepal. The 18th meeting of the NRA steering committee, chaired by PM Oli, gave the responsibility to design the programme and decided to implement it from next fiscal. The NRA, in collaboration with the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Authority, is preparing a proposal to implement a long-term programme to rebuild heritage settlements and cultural monuments at world heritage sites. The main objectives of the programme are to carryout reconstruction and rehabilitation of damaged private houses, public structures, monuments and others in an integrated manner, taking future disaster into consideration. The remaining tasks of the reconstruction works will be carried out by the concerned government agencies as the NRA's final term is going to expire on July 16, 2021. The reconstruction work in Nepal has been largely satisfactory though it took an additional one more year than allowed by the law. The most challenging task for the NRA and the government agencies is to relocate over a dozen settlements to safer areas from the geographically fragile areas.

Fine the violators

Despite the surge in the number of coronavirus cases in recent days, it has not caused any panic among the people at large. The government last week introduced a number of regulations in a bid to prevent the spread of virus in the community. Besides shutting down schools and colleges, the government has put a cap on the number of people who can attend social, religious and other gatherings. However, with the wedding season in progress, no one seems to be following the health protocols. Despite the ban on gatherings of more than 25 people, wedding processions are being held as if during normal times.

The government alone can't be keeping a watchful eye on all citizens. The people also have the obligation to follow the health protocols prescribed by the government, which are for their own good. Perhaps, the government should introduce heavy fines for those flouting health safety measures as the authorities have done in Rautahat. According to the DAO, it collected Rs 9,800 in fines the other day from 98 persons for violating the rules. Let the negligence of people not be the reason for a lockdown as in India.

A version of this article appears in the print on April 26, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.