The rebuilding has long begun in Nuwakot District in the foothills of the Himalayas in Nepal. Twenty months after the earthquake that took lives and devastated livelihoods, people are receiving their first payments under a housing reconstruction project and are rebuilding their homes to higher standards. This will hopefully make them safer when the next earthquake hits.
The villagers I met were pleased to be getting financial and technical support to rebuild their lives but their frustration over the slow start still lingered.This is understandable given the suffering the earthquake caused and the slowdown in recovery efforts that came soon afterwards because of the disruption at Nepal’s border. But signs of enthusiasm dominated as stonemasons, engineer trainees and local officials mobilize in the rebuilding effort.The pace of recovery needs to be put into context. The progress achieved in Nepal is in line with other similar experiences in countries such as Pakistan and Indonesia. The key now will be in pushing ahead with delivery of what the government and its development partners have promised the Nepali people.
The progress so far is encouraging. As of the end of November, more than 430,000 households have received the first of three payments to rebuild their homes under the government’s housing reconstruction program. The program, supported by the World Bank and other development partners, combines enforcing higher building standards with making sure the money is spent well. Each grant payment is subject to certification by competent technical personnel in order to ensure that houses are rebuilt to safer standards. The grants are deposited directly into the bank accounts of the beneficiaries.
Every check issued can be tracked by the government’s budget management system and reported for third-party verification. Nepal’s National Reconstruction Authority is doing a good job under challenging circumstances. Its future success will benefit from institutional stability and continued strong support from the government. Beyond earthquake reconstruction, Nepal has many major challenges in overcoming poverty, which is still too high in the country.
The World Bank Group is helping Nepal to spread prosperity across the country and plans to substantially increase the money available for Nepal in the three years from 2017. The additional resources can be used to help smoothen Nepal’s transition to federalism, manage vulnerabilities such as potential global economic downturns and declines in remittances from overseas workers, as well as to mitigate climate and disaster risks.
A version of this article appears in print on December 21, 2016 of The Himalayan Times.