EDITORIAL: Slow progress

It is still not clear when the NRA will conclude agreements with the development partners for the financial assistance they had pledged

The government has targeted completing the earthquake-damaged reconstruction works by 2020.

A meeting of the Advisory Council of the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) chaired by Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal held on Tuesday decided to expedite the work as envisaged by the Post-Disaster Recovery Framework (PDRF).

In order to achieve the goal, the advisory council also decided to include 14 lawmakers from the worst-affected districts in the council in an inclusive manner.

Till date, NRA has distributed the first installment of Rs. 50,000 each to a total of 416,046 households out of the total 531,964 identified as beneficiaries in the 11 worst-hit hilly districts.

It means that 87 percent of the beneficiaries have signed grant agreements with NRA through local bodies. The government has decided to provide Rs. 300,000 in cash in three installments and Rs. 25,000 will have to be kept aside for solar panels or biogas plants out of the grant assistance.

NRA officials briefed the advisory council that it will require at least Rs. 938 billion to complete the post-quake reconstruction works which include rebuilding the damaged private houses.

However, the government has so far signed agreements worth Rs. 272 billion with development partners, who had pledged UD$ 4 billion at an International Conference in Nepal’s reconstruction held two months after the quake in June, 2015.

The NRA has yet to identify the beneficiaries in three districts in the Kathmandu Valley where as many as 100,000 households are estimated to be affected by the last year’s natural disaster.

It is not clear how long it will take to collect data about the households damaged by the quake in the Valley.

Although the advisory council and NRA has envisaged to complete the reconstruction work by 2020 around 8,000 families or eligible beneficiaries have complained that they do not have landownership certificates as the lands they had been tilling belonged to guthis.

This issue must be settled first before any grant agreement is signed with them. On the other hand, the NRA does not have any time schedule for rebuilding the private houses damaged in the quake.

The urgent need of the hour is to give top priority to rebuild the families’ houses so that they can live in permanent shelters and start a new life. It has been 18 months since the devastating earthquake flattened the houses in the central hilly districts.

But the NRA and PM-headed advisory council are still discussing the timeline to complete the tasks. What is frustrating to note is that works on the reconstruction of public property including temples, historical monuments, shrines, schools, health posts and drinking water facilities have yet to kick start.

It is still not clear when the NRA will conclude agreements with the development partners for the financial assistance they had pledged.

The PM-headed advisory council, NRA, line ministries, local bodies and the development partners must work expeditiously in tandem if the post-quake reconstruction works are to be completed within the remaining three-and-a-half-year.

But looking at the pace of works it is impossible to accomplish the mission on time. The affected families will have to wait for years to make their dream come true.

Jackal attacks

Two jackals attacked and injured 28 persons in Rautahat the other day. Among those injured are 12 females, 16 males and one five-year-old boy.

Most of those who were attacked had gone outside their home to relieve themselves or were going for morning walks. This unfortunate incidence was not foreseen and unexpected catching people off guard.

About 15 of the injured were bitten by the jackals above their neck and one was bitten in an eye. They have been admitted to Kathmandu based Sukraraj Tropical Memorial Hospital for treatment and the one suffering from the bite in the eye is being treated at Tilganga Eye Hospital.

After being attacked by the jackals those injured were taken to the district hospital for treatment. The hospital did not have an adequate stock of anti-rabies vaccine so they had to be dispatched from the regional medical store in Hetauda.

This unfortunate incident should be probed urging the people to exercise extra caution particularly in places where jackals also inhabit.

It is up to the authorities to be on the alert and not to allow the dangerous jackals into human settlements. We should be prepared to avert more such attacks.