EDITORIAL: Now, to action

The rehabilitation and reconstruction works should have started immediately after the rescue and relief operations were over

Decks have been cleared for carrying out the reconstruction of the private and public infrastructure damaged by the April 25 earthquake and its powerful aftershocks. The much-awaited Bill related to “reconstruction of earthquake affected structure” was tabled on Tuesday for the formation of the National Authority for Reconstruction (NAR). The agitating Madhes-centric parties boycotted yesterday’s House proceeding but let the House pass the Bill for reconstruction. The Bill for NAR has been passed eight months after the earthquake that rendered over 800,000 people homeless, left around 9000 people dead and injured as many as 23,000 others. An ordinance to this effect was introduced by the NC-led government on June 22, two months after the quake, before holding the international conference on Nepal reconstruction. But the ordinance could not get through Parliament due to objection from the CPN-UML and then main opposition UCPN-Maoist. The main opposition NC was obstructing the House proceeding demanding that a Bill related to the first amendment to the new constitution should also be tabled along with it. On the other hand, the Madhes-based parties had agreed to let the House pass the reconstruction Bill but were opposed to the constitutional amendment, saying that the Bill to amend the constitution would not address their demands.

The parliamentary Statutory Committee had reached an agreement on the draft Bill on reconstruction on December 9. But it could not be tabled in the House due to opposition from the NC. Finally, the three major parties found a middle path to end the stalemate, agreeing that both the Bills would be tabled at once and the reconstruction Bill would be passed soon. According to the Bill there shall be a directive committee, consultative committee, both to be headed by the Prime Minister and leader of the main opposition to act as vice-chairman of both the panels. It is the executive committee which will oversee the entire reconstruction, rehabilitation and relocation works. The friendly countries and development partners have already pledged US$ 4.4 billion for the reconstruction and rehabilitation works.

The rehabilitation work should have started immediately after the rescue and relief operations were over. The government, lawmakers and the major political parties – no matter whether they are in the government or in opposition – should have devised a plan to rehabilitate the quake victims within a couple of months. Some development partners had even warned the government of diverting their pledged assistance in other countries unless the parties pass the law to deal with the reconstruction work. Now the major challenges that lie ahead are to expedite the reconstruction and rehabilitation works and maintain transparency of the entire expenditure. There are reports that over 80,000 households were falsely reported to have been damaged or destroyed. The government will have to bear an additional Rs five billion if those households were also to be compensated with Rs. 200,000. The NAR must revisit those statistics, and the need assessment report prepared by the National Planning Commission before starting the work.

Not following orders

Eight people were killed in a big blast at a brick kiln in Sunsari the other day. Apparently, this happened due to a cracked chimney at the kiln after the devastating earthquake of April 25 and several strong shocks after that. The District Administration Office says that it had banned the brick kilns from operating after the earthquakes and that in the initial days they were monitoring the kilns to see to it that the brick kiln owners were abiding by its regulation. But of late the authorities were not carrying out the checking in earnest, thereby inviting the disaster. The owner of the kiln was clearly at fault for attempting to start the factory again without taking adequate safeguards and without abiding by the regulations.

During the ceremony of resuming operations of the factory, firewood, bamboos and even tyres were soaked with petrol to start a fire. The fire emitted a lot of smoke which got stuck inside the damaged chimney causing the explosion. Therefore, those responsible should receive due punishment.