Govt aid may be too little, too late for earthquake survivors

  • post-quake reconstruction

Jan 19, 2016-

It was a nippy October evening. Tuku Kumari Khadka and her husband were preparing to wrap up their day’s work in a nearby farm when a strong wind blew away the roof of their makeshift shelter made up of zinc sheets—their abode since they lost their home to the April 25 earthquake—in Sundar Danda in Kavre district. 

Theirs was one of around 40 makeshift shelters set up to house the families of Sundar Danda who lost their homes to the quake. 

“Luckily, no physical harm befell us that day, as the wind just blew away the roof. But it forced us to think what if a similar incident happens again,” said Tuku Kumari, who then thought of building a house for her family of five on her own. 

“The wait for government support was getting frustratingly longer. And with winter already round the corner, cold winds would whip through our shelter,” Tuku Kumari said of the October evening.

Tuku Kumari shared her post-quake ordeal with the Post on Sunday, a day after the government formally launched the reconstruction campaign, which the National Reconstruction Authority said was largely symbolic. However, Tuku Kumari’s story is also symbolic of how the 40-odd households from Sundar Danda, and others from the quake-affected districts, have waited for so long for government support to rebuild houses which they can call their own. 

After the earthquake, Tuku Kumari’s and other households of Sundar 

Danda had received some tarpaulin sheets from some organisations, under which they lived for a few days. They later built temporary shelters with zinc sheets they were given. 

“We did receive Rs15,000 that was provided to us as immediate relief, but we haven’t received anything after that,” said Tuku Kumari.

About the Rs200,000 aid the government has announced for earthquake survivor families to rebuild their houses, Tuku Kumari said, “I have just heard about it. I am not that optimistic.”

After six months of wait, Tuku Kumari and her family started constructing a new house in December. She said she has already spent around Rs200,000 to build the new house. “Half of the total investment we have made is loan. We had some savings from selling vegetables that we grow,” said Tuku Kumari, pointing at the under-construction structure. 

The National Reconstruction Authority, which was formed after a long delay and amid criticism, has said the actual reconstruction will start most likely by April 24, on the eve of the first anniversary of the Gorkha Earthquake. 

But for Tuku Kumari, the symbolic reconstruction campaign is too little, too late. Besides Tuku Kumari’s family, there is one more family that has started building a house on its own.

“If they [the government authorities] give us Rs200,000 then I will build a new home and use this house as a cowshed,” she quipped. 

Published: 19-01-2016 08:44

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