Rebuilding policy

There is no doubt that maximum use of local materials and resources should be utilized, but other important factors should not be ignored

The National Planning Commission (NPC) has prepared the draft of Post-Earthquake Recovery and Reconstruction Policy, which after its approval with some probable changes, will become the policy to guide the reconstruction work. The draft gives importance to local resources and raw materials, which is often a sound policy. The draft discourages the use of prefabricated building materials, requires INGOs to seek domestic partners before they can start rehabilitation and reconstruction work, places emphasis on the utilization of domestic financial resources to rebuild national and local heritage sites. The draft is said to be based on the suggestions offered by the National Reconstruction Consultative Committee chaired by the Prime Minister, which will act as an advisory committee to the PM-led 11-member National Reconstruction Authority (NRA), also to be headed by the Prime Minister; on the strategies prescribed by the NPC-prepared Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) report, as well as the recommendations of the June 25 international conference on Nepal’s reconstruction held in Kathmandu.

The final reconstruction policy will guide the work of donor agencies, INGOs, NGOs and other organizations to draw up programmes of recovery and reconstruction, as well as of assistance to the earthquake victims. The NRA was brought into existence by an ordinance in a hasty manner just a week before the donors’ conference on June 25. But, sadly, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the authority is yet to be named, some three and a half months after the April 25 quake, and about one and a half months after the donors’ conference. NRA was supposed to frame the reconstruction policy, but NPC has done it, citing reasons of making the task of NRA easier. The CEO has not been appointed so far because of the row between the parties in power over which of them should be allowed to choose the CEO.

This delay does not bode well for the speedy reconstruction, the main focus of which, according to the draft, will be rebuilding private houses, restoration of social infrastructure, such as schools and health centres, and reconstruction of the heritage sites. The reconstruction policy will provide a framework in the form of standards, designs and methods approved by the government for organizations, especially NGOs and INGOS, in preparing their programmes and implementing these in coordination with the local communities. Though the emphasis on local content is well placed, this should not blind us to the other factors like safety and ease. The draft discourages prefabricated materials and other imported construction materials. Prefab materials are imported as well as made at home. But the government’s post-quake statements suggest that emphasis will be placed on the construction of earthquake-resistant houses and structures. There is no doubt that maximum use of local men, materials and other resources should be utilized, but other important factors should not be ignored. Prefab materials should not be ignored – they could be useful in the construction of houses, particularly in villages and other open areas. If there was more demand, more prefab materials would be likely to be produced domestically.

Resettle the victims

It is seven years since 58 families in Kanchanpur district were displaced after a massive flood in the Mahakali River swept away their land and homes. They are taking refuge in the Rani Community Forestry without support from the government. These families are always in constant fear that their shanty shelters can be blown away during the spring or washed away during monsoon. It is particularly the children who are the hardest hit.

Representatives of the local political parties and officials of the community forestry had allowed them to settle in the forest area in 2009. But the government has not provided them secure place for permanent settlement. To make matters worse, the flood victims have not been listed as victims of the natural disaster, causing them to live a destitute life without any basic facilities. It is only the RCS which has been providing them with tents and food. The government should address their plight by providing them with suitable land where they can at least build a house.