EDITORIAL: Now for action

The NRA has spent a lot of time and energy just in preparing the action plan. Now, it is time to put the plan into action

The National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) which is solely responsible for carrying out reconstruction of individual houses and public infrastructure has come under severe criticism for the slow progress on the reconstruction works in the most quake affected districts.

More than half a million people have been directly affected by the devastating earthquake that occurred in 2015.

It has been more than 18 months since the quake rendered these people homeless and left around 9,000 others dead. But the NRA has been very slow in expediting the reconstruction works.

The NRA conducted a survey of beneficiaries in 14 most affected districts.

However, more than 190,000 people have lodged their complaints arguing that they had been left out from the beneficiary list when the survey was commissioned.

This is one of the major challenges that the NRA needs to settle without further delay. The NRA’s working procedure is slow, and it has yet to start the beneficiary survey in three districts in the Kathmandu Valley.

Recently, a steering committee led by PM Pushpa Kamal Dahal has approved the action plan to expedite the post-reconstruction works, a plan which should have been in place within a couple of months after the disaster.

As per the plan the NRA has envisaged conducting beneficiary survey in 17 less affected districts by January next year.

The authority has however claimed that 81 percent of the beneficiaries in most of the affected districts have collected the first installment of the grant to be provided by the government for rebuilding damaged houses.

The action plan has also envisaged relocating 358 settlements from the highly vulnerable areas to safer places within the districts and speed up the land registration process of the quake survivors..

Many survivors have been deprived of the grant as they do not have the land ownership certificate in their names. Other challenges are the non-availability of construction materials and skilled labourers in the villages.

Such problems should be resolved by the concerned ministries.

The NRA plans to reconstruct the 7,923 schools damaged in the quake by mid-April 2018. It shows the schools have received low priority.

But it has rebuilt 200 health facilities with pre-fab structure and the remaining 268 will be rebuilt by end of this fiscal. But it will take at least another two years to reconstruct the cultural heritage sites, roads, bridges and drinking water facilities.

The NRA should have given top priority to rebuild the damaged individual houses, drinking water facilities, schools and health centres. People could have quickly returned to normal activities had the government worked in a coordinated manner shortly after the disasters.

A lesson learned from last year’s devastating quake that occurred after 80 years of the other big one is that the government should already have prepared a detailed plan of action in advance to handle a humanitarian crisis of such a large scale.

Scientists had warned that a major earthquake was likely to strike in Nepal anytime soon but the government paid little attention towards adequate preparedness.

The NRA has spent a lot of time and energy just in preparing the action plan. Now, it is time to put the plan into action.

Disturbing trend

Child marriage is still practised in many parts of the country although it is against the law. It was reported Sunday that such marriages have increased to worrying levels this year in Rukum district.

A study made public on the occasion of Universal Children’s Day Sunday reveals that 57 per cent of the children get married in the district.

Moreover, it was found that in one remote VDC in the district more than 72 per cent of the children are married before they reach the legal age to do so.

These discrepancies are attributed to, among other things, the lack of awareness and education and also the prevailing traditional beliefs.

It is found that many of the children get married without the permission of their parents, which is a disturbing trend and also partly responsible for the high incidence of this illegal practice.

Although campaigns have been carried out to eradicate child marriage they have not succeeded in doing so.

Child marriage is a social evil and should be discouraged, but so far efforts to deal with this evil have proved to be ineffective calling for strict implementation of the law so as to deal with such marriages.