The Himalayan Times, Sujan Dhungana, 25th April 2017, Kathmandu
Tuesday marks two years since the devastating earthquake, which rattled the country with thousands of deaths and caused damages to physical structures worth millions of rupees. However, the road to recovery has been a long and tedious one owing to the delay in executing post-earthquake reconstruction works by the government.
On the eve of the two-year anniversary, National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) — the government agency responsible to lead and manage the earthquake recovery and reconstruction in the country — unveiled the reconstruction progress made by the government. Sadly, the two-year report of NRA reveals the post-reconstruction works in the country has been extremely sluggish. While majority of affected people are yet to get the full amount of housing grant, thousands of quake-hit physical structures are yet to be reconstructed.
The first part of post-earthquake reconstruction initiated by the government was by disbursing housing grants. Though the government earlier planned to distribute Rs 200,000 each to quake beneficiaries, later the government increased the grant amount to Rs 300,000 per quake beneficiary, which would be distributed in three tranches —
Rs 50,000, Rs 150,000 and Rs 100,000. However, government has not been able to disburse the full housing grant, leaving the identified beneficiaries in a lurch.
While most quake beneficiaries are yet to receive the second and third tranches of the housing aid, almost 90 per cent of identified affected households have taken the first tranche, as per NRA. Out of 626,695 quake beneficiaries, 543,606 have received the first tranche of housing grant. However, only 23,000 individual houses have been rebuilt so far utilising the aid.
Similarly, the reconstruction pace of earthquake-damaged physical structures has also been very slow over the last two years, as per statistics of NRA. The government has completed reconstruction of only 20 quake-damaged heritage sites out of the identified 750 (133 fully-damaged and 617 partially-damaged) heritage sites.
Likewise, reconstruction of quake-damaged schools across the country has been lethargic in the review period. NRA data show that 9,923 schools in the country were fully or partially damaged by the April 25 earthquake in 2015. However, only 1,141 such schools have been fully reconstructed until today.
Reconstruction of earthquake-hit health institutions and government-owned buildings is also not satisfactory. While only 32 government buildings, out of 2,628 buildings damaged by the earthquake, have been reconstructed until now, 200 health institutions out of 440 damaged by the earthquake have been restored.
Similarly, reconstruction of 363 drinking water projects, out of 7,741 fully or partially damaged drinking water projects, has been completed so far.
NRA officials say lack of adequate skilled human resources in Nepal is to be blamed for the slow progress. “We are facing a crunch of human resources for the reconstruction works,” Govinda Raj Pokharel, chief executive officer of NRA, said, adding the authority is focusing on providing effective training to people for reconstruction activities. Pokharel also informed that NRA is mulling over ways to lure the Nepalis seeking job opportunities abroad into reconstruction works.
He also said that lack of coordination among different government agencies is another setback for post-quake reconstruction works in the country.
Pokharel said that NRA is, nevertheless, committed to complete reconstruction of physical infrastructures damaged by the earthquake by 2020.