The building codes and procedure should be honestly implemented to make the capital city healthy and livable

When the 2015 earthquake struck the country, more than 9,000 people were killed and over 23,000 others injured after the powerful tremor toppled many private and public buildings, mainly in the central region of the country. According to the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA), more than 700,000 houses were either destroyed or partially damaged, costing billions of rupees to rebuild or repair them. The reconstruction process is still going on even five years after the earthquake that also brought the national economy to a grinding halt. As an old adage goes, it is not the quake that kills people and causes huge damage to physical property, but it is the poorly-designed building and structure that can easily topple and kill the people. Following an initial assessment of the colossal damage caused by the Gorkha Earthquake, it was revealed that the natural disaster could not have caused such huge loss to the people and the physical infrastructure had the concerned government agencies paid heed to the building codes in the heavily populated urban centres, such as the Kathmandu Valley, where most buildings collapsed in the April 25 quake and its aftershocks.

Immediately after the quake, the government came up with the Basic Standards on Settlement Development, Urban Planning and Building Construction-2015, known as building codes, requiring new structures – private or public – to follow the code prescribed by the government.

One year later, the government came up with the Building Construction Procedure-2016.

Five years later, the Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) has directed its Building Construction Permit Department not to maintain records of the buildings that have been constructed violating the Procedure-2016.

KMC has also told its department to deny Construction Completion Certificates to buildings or houses built in contravention of the Code and Procedure to streamline the house and building regulatory system in the metropolis.

While this is a welcome step, such move should have been strictly implemented shortly after the Code was issued. Many houses and buildings must have been built during this time without adhering to the building code. A KMC notice states that one has to submit an application to the KMC with all details prepared by a technician in prescribed format for certification of the structure. If the details submitted by the applicant do not match with that of the structure, KMC will take action against the house/building owner and the private technician. The notice has also made it mandatory for the house owner to construct at least one attached septic tank as part of urban sanitation. Most of the private houses in the Valley are built without a septic tank constructed within the house compounds. The sewerage system is directly connected to the main drainage system, which is also directly emptied into the rivers, which have become an open drainage, leading to health hazards and environmental degradation. The building codes and procedure should be honestly implemented to make the capital city livable. The rules should not be yet another illegal source of income for those who hold the elected office and those who are supposed to monitor the construction activities. The rules must be applied to all without any bias.

Cardamom export

Nepal's export items are limited, and large cardamom happens to be just one of them. However, cardamom prices have been fluctuating since the last few years, causing worry, especially to the farmers.

Cardamom, known as black gold, is cultivated in some 40 districts of Nepal, with eastern Nepal being its hub. Not many countries grow cardamom, and Nepal is the world's largest producer and exporter of the spice herb. However, India is the sole market, and its price is dependent on the whims of Indian entrepreneurs.

Thus, Nepal should look for countries other than India to export cardamom if the cultivation of this profitable spice is to flourish. For this, one cannot be relying too much on the government, and private entrepreneurs have the onus to search for more profitable markets.

Apart from falling prices, there is also another reason why cardamom cultivation could vanish – global warming. Cardamom grows well in shady places on hill slopes, but with temperatures on the rise, its cultivation has come under threat. Hence, farmers should be looking for alternatives, such as growing other more profitable fruits, herbs and vegetables if cardamom does not fetch the desired price.