The low-cost designs could also be popularized among non-victims across the country who have a low budget to build a house

Now, nearly two years ago, on April 25, 2015 and afterwards, major earthquakes and their aftershocks killed some 9000 people in several districts of the country, injured or mimed about three times that figure, and destroyed or damaged eight lakh houses and buildings, and caused other losses as well.

Relief and rescue operations were mounted by mainly by the Nepalese with the help and support of friendly countries and many other organizations around the world. Serious shortcomings were then pointed out by many quarters.

That phase was over and the phase of reconstruction of the destroyed and damaged structures started. This took an unnecessarily long time to start, and part of the construction has been done but the largest part has yet to be started or completed.

But the reconstruction work has not picked up the speed it should have done, but the time frame for the completion of all reconstruction has been set as five years, and some time has already passed. This shows that all necessary measures should be taken in that direction.

Saying it two years after the devastation may itself constitute an irony but the truth is not otherwise. At long last, the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA), the agency created by the government after a low political row and hassles to direct and operate all post-earthquake reconstruction work, is set to unveil six new designs of earthquake-resistant low-cost houses.

The Society of Nepali Architects and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) have helped in creating these designs, which have already been approved by the executive body of NRA.

The new designs have some attractive features –- utilization of local raw materials, especially in rural areas, and low cost. Raw materials like stones, mud or cement could be used to construct the walls and tiles, stones, and corrugated sheets to construct the roof.

According to NRA, using these designs, a one story house can be built at Rs. 300,000, excluding the cost of the foundation of the house. This means the cost of such a house will be covered by the amount of the government grant that is provided to people whose houses were destroyed.

These designs can address the financial problems of the quake victims who cannot provide collateral needed to get a loan from a bank and other financial institutions and of those who find it difficult to invest extra money over and above the government grant to rebuild a house.

The 17 designs issued earlier would cost much more than the present ones, which should be a relief for those victims who have not been able as yet to rebuild their houses. The quake victims can plan to reconstruct their houses from a wide choice of designs depending on their budget and preference.

For them to qualify to get the second and third installments of the government grant, they have to choose one of the approved designs.

According to the CEO of NRA, Govinda Raj Pokharel, as of Sunday, only 1,687 houses have received the second tranche of the reconstruction grant out of the total of 626,695 listed beneficiaries in 14 districts.

Now the pace of reconstruction must be speeded up. The low-cost designs could also be popularized among non-victims who have a low budget to build a house.

Highway hardship

The busy Narayangadh-Mugling road will remain closed for six hours in the daytime from 10 am to 4 pm from March 28. The decision to this effect was taken at a meeting chaired by Chitwan CDO.

This will cause hardship to passengers and cargo trucks passing through this road connecting Tarai-Madhes with the capital, Pokhara and other hilly districts. The road widening project has remained behind schedule for months due to the devastating earthquake and border blockade.

No vehicles except for ambulances and other essential ones will be allowed to ply on the road for six hours in daytime.

As per the agreement, the three contractors who have been assigned to complete the task in three sections are to complete the task within 45 days. But the contractors so far have completed only 41 percent of the work.

The contractors have planned to finish cutting of the hill sides before the onset of the monsoon beginning in the second week of June. The contractors sought permission from the Chitwan DAO more time for closing traffic in the daytime to finish their job at the earliest.

It is therefore advised for passenger buses and cargo trucks to re-schedule movement during the night to avoid inconvenience.