Nepal | November 17, 2019

EDITORIAL: Unsafe building

The Himalayan Times

It is the duty of the concerned ministry to keep the hospital staff away from the red-sticker building that is unfit to live in

There is an adage that goes, it is not an earthquake that kills people, it is the man-made structure that kills them after being shaken up by the quake. People get killed when the buildings they are living in collapse or any other physical structure falls upon them or buries them in the rubble. According to the preliminary report made public shortly after the 2015 Gorkha tremor and several of its aftershocks, especially the May 12 aftershock, government authorities had said most of the people – over 9,000 were killed and 23,000 others injured – were killed following the collapse of buildings and other mad-made structures, mostly in the 22 hilly districts that were hit the hardest. Immediately after the tremor, several teams, comprising civil and structural engineers, formed by the government were assigned to assess if the public and private buildings were safe to live in. A house considered safe got a green sticker and an unsafe house a red one. Reports from various districts also revealed that some of the people were killed after their houses collapsed in a major aftershock on May 12. The authorities had also pasted yellow stickers on some houses, meaning that people could live there only after carrying out retrofitting.

Families that could not afford to demolish their houses or rebuild them shortly after the quake may have a reason to live in an unsafe home. But there are some public buildings with red stickers, where the government staffers have been staying even in the Kathmandu Valley for the last four years. As many as fifteen families are living in an unsafe building belonging to the Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital at Teku. Authorities from the Ministry of Urban Development and the Department of Urban Development and Building  Construction had pasted the red sticker on the four-storey building with 20 rooms. The sticker clearly states that it is unsafe to enter or occupy the building because it has deep cracks on its walls. Of the 20 rooms, five of them are used by the hospital as store rooms while the rest are occupied by the families of the hospital staff along with their newborns and infants. Lying on the premises of the hospital, hundreds of people pass by the building during the daytime, and its area is also used as a parking lot.

“Even when there is a mild aftershock, the entire building shakes,” a staff nurse residing in the building said. Her statement sums up how scary the building is. Then, what is the hospital administration doing till now? The hospital administration should have evacuated the families from it and got it listed either for retrofitting or for reconstruction. The hospital administration has not made any recommendation to the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) for its reconstruction. Who will be held accountable should any untoward incident happen to the families in case the building collapses? It is the responsibility of the Ministry of Health and Population either to demolish or retrofit it. The hospital administration should in no way allow the families to live in the shaky building, which poses a great risk to their lives. As the issue has now been brought to light, NRA should also take the initiative to do the needful to prevent an accident.

Break the nexus

It’s indeed depressing to note that the trafficking of girls and women continues unabated despite efforts by the government and civil society to reverse the trend. Lured by false promises of good jobs involving big money, they are landing up in places far from the country, as far as Africa, destined to work especially in the adult entertainment sector. It is hard to say exactly how many girls and women are forced into the flesh trade and other forms of slavery, but they are said to run into hundreds of thousands.

Surprisingly, the problem has not received the attention it deserves from the government, apart from making some laws that bar women from travelling for work in the Gulf countries. But this has not been very effective because the middle men who are helping Nepali women to spill all over the Arab world and into Africa tend to be one step ahead. The problem could not have grown so big without a nexus between the politicians and the traffickers. Without their blessings, the traffickers would not have been so daring in carrying out their business. A multi-pronged strategy is needed to control the trafficking of women. This must include harsh punishment with long prison sentences to the traffickers.


A version of this article appears in print on June 24, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.

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