Shift to safety

  • Plans to resettle quake-affected population should consider livelihood options available to them
- MANBAR S. KHADKA, NILHARI NEUPANE
Shift to safety

Jun 29, 2015-

The rehabilitation and resettlement of earthquake victims is one of the biggest challenges facing Nepal in the aftermath of the 7.9 magnitude quake. In some of the hardest-hit districts like Gorkha, Sindhupalchowk, Dolakha, Rasuwa and Nuwakot, poor and disadvantaged communities have been gravely affected. Victims have been living in harsh conditions and because of the difficult terrain, many villages in the 14 most-affected districts are not easily accessible. So it is

of utmost importance to revive the livelihoood of the

affected population via in situ rehabilitation and resettlement programmes. By rehabilitating victims near the place where they were previously located, people will be able to pursue their old livelihood strategies. However, resettling people in new areas need much more thought.

An increased number of human casualties in this earthquake can be attributed mainly to existing human habitation. For instance, people have been living on terrain that is susceptible to landslides in many mountain districts across Nepal. Had they been living in safer localities, human casualties could have been minimised. While development practitioners and policy makers have proactively discussed resettlement issues in the past, it is now  imperative that resettlement be given due priority for the betterment of rural livelihoods. Resettlement is important from the perspective of inclusive development. In order to improve the living conditions of the poor and marginalised groups, and especially those of earthquake victims, resettlement in socio-economically appropriate localities is crucial.

Need to relocate

But there are consequences to any resettlement programme. The resettled communities may suffer from emotional loss due to attachment with their ancestral localities; psychological distress may occur as a result of resettlement programmes. The resettled communities will lose their social network. There will be a loss or change in the occupation and livelihood strategies of the resettled communities. There is also a danger of increased dependency on food-aid programmes, which can be detrimental for the development and restructuring of the nation post-earthquake.

Nonetheless, resettlement should be the top priority of the government. But if it is done without proper planning, various problems may arise in the near future. For example, resettling people in forest areas implies deforestation which can have

a devastating effect on the socio-ecological balance of the region. Likewise, increased unemployment among the resettled population may increase crime rates, resulting in social unrest.

So while pursuing resettlement programmes post-earthquake, we must come up with a clear plan. What are the strategies for reviving livelihoods? The government, along with development agencies, can consider the following strategies for reviving livelihoods.

 

Strategies for revival

The livelihood needs of earthquake victims are diverse and they need to be tackled separately. In the immediate, food-for-work or cash-for-work programmes can be effective. Apiculture, tunnel production of vegetables, and mushroom cultivation are other viable options for quick income generation. Some of these programmes can be initiated immediately. Earthquake victims who specialise in agriculture can lease farmland from landowners for sharecropping. The government can play an intermediary role by facilitating the process and also help link earthquake victims with financial institutions and the agricultural market. Earthquake victims can also engage in agro-forestry and the cultivation of fodder crop or non-timber forest products for income generation. The entrepreneurial, social, and technical skills of the resettled communities need to be enhanced. Many rural people are skilled in the production of handicrafts made by using bamboo and operating handlooms. Identifying their skills and providing them with loan and product standardisation trainings, and helping them establish a link with the market can help them earn a livelihood.

Further, there is a need to rebuild the ties of the communities with both formal and informal institutions which have been broken as a consequence of the quake.

Lastly, the resettlement policy should also focus on revitalising the distorted labour market. The reconstruction of public and private infrastructures will no doubt absorb significant labour for years to come. With much-needed skill enhancement, the government can divert agricultural labourers into construction and manufacturing workers.

- Khadka holds an MS in Agricultural & Resource Economics from the University of Maryland, the US and Neupane holds a PhD in Agricultural Economics from Justus Liebig University, Germany

Published: 30-06-2015 08:24

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