EDITORIAL: Tardy pace

The pace of rebuilding individual houses is so slow that NRA, it seems, will never be able to accomplish its mission

The government hosted the International Conference on Nepal’s Reconstruction on June 25, 2015 to address the country’s massive reconstruction challenges following the devastating earthquakes on April 25 and May 12. The conference was held two months after the first major tremor. During the conference, the government sought technical and financial supports from international partners to rebuild and reconstruct Nepal. Development partners and donor community had pledged $4.4 billion in financial aid during the conference. Areas of cooperation included agriculture, education, infrastructure rebuilding such as roads, schools, hospitals, houses; restoration of heritage sites, among others. Nearly 9,000 people were killed. Over half a million individual houses were fully or partially damaged and three million people were rendered homeless. Several world heritage monuments in Kathmandu Valley that carried immense historical, cultural and archaeological significance had also been damaged. The National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) was formed on December 25, 2015 with the main objective of rebuilding the individual houses within two years. But the pace of rebuilding individual houses in quake affected areas has been so slow that the NRA will never be able to accomplish its mission.

The NRA had set January 14, 2017 as the deadline to receive the third and final tranche of the government grant of Rs 300,000. Out of the total 767,705 households found eligible for the government grant, 385,657 households who received the first tranche last year have already missed the deadline to receive the second and third tranches. It shows that more than half of the eligible households will be deprived of the second and the third tranches if the NRA does not review its position. Thirty-one months have passed since the tremor; but only 36,775 households have rebuilt their houses under the government grant. The NRA has so far received 56,808 applications for the third tranche, out of which it has approved 47,801 applications. However, more than 80,000 houses have already been built outside the government grant during the period. It shows how slow the NRA process is.

Half of the beneficiaries could not start rebuilding their houses due to several reasons such as the manpower shortage, expensive construction materials, strict housing code, unavailability of suitable plots for building houses, poor government monitoring and migration of quake victims to urban areas and abroad. Similarly, financial institutions’ lukewarm response to the plan of loan to the quake victims also left them in the lurch. On the beneficiaries’ part also there were some concerns, as there were reports of non-utilisation of government grant in building houses. NRA CEO Yuvaraj Bhusal has said his office will consider extending the deadline to receive the grant for the “genuine beneficiaries”. It is, however, difficult to define who is genuine and who is not. It is also not clear whether extending the deadline only will address the pressing problems. While the NRA is struggling to accomplish its job, several factors are hindering the entire reconstruction process. An urgent solution is required.

Green fingers

Bajura locals of late are attracted towards vegetable farming, thereby making the district self-reliant on green vegetables. Those who earlier used to go to India in search of jobs are now staying back in the district, working in the fields to grow vegetables with some of them saving up to Rs. 300,000 a year. The District Agriculture Development Office (DADO), Practical Action and Human Resource Centre are extending support to those people who want to start vegetable farming in the district. With many people now engaging in vegetable farming, the district has stopped importing vegetables from the Tarai districts. More and more people are into vegetable farming these days as one can make a good profit from it.

Locals’ attraction towards vegetable farming is a positive sign in Bajura — a district which is ranked the lowest in the Human Development Index. Vegetable farming now has kept the people who otherwise would go to other countries, including India to work, in the district. It has also substantially helped in uplifting the economic and social status of locals. With vegetable farming, some have also started rearing goats, which is yet another livelihood option.