The long wait

  • People displaced by the earthquakes cannot be left in limbo for much longer

Oct 27, 2016-

The National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) has repeatedly and justly been criticised over the previous year for delays in the post-earthquake reconstruction process. Thousands of people have spent two monsoons and a winter in extremely inadequate housing. 

More than a year on, the outlook is still grim; quake survivors are now preparing to spend a second winter in similar conditions. Yet there is a ray of hope. 

After numerous delays, the NRA has been busy distributing the first of three instalments of money to households in earthquake affected districts. This should help them rebuild their houses. The money is not a large amount—only Rs50,000 per family—and the process has only been completed in 11 districts. But this has at least granted inhabitants of earthquake-affected districts the sense that the 

government is looking out for them.

Unfortunately, this has not been the case for the thousands of others who were displaced after last year’s earthquakes rendered their settlements uninhabitable. The earthquakes triggered widespread landslides and avalanches, and caused massive fissures to appear in the ground. Many areas became uninhabitable or even dangerous to live in. According to the home ministry’s preliminary survey, there were a total of 475 settlement areas that were thought to be at high risk. 

The inhabitants of many of these settlements, among the most marginalised members of Nepal’s population, have had no alternative but to seek accommodation in nearby villages or district headquarters. They are currently living in extremely precarious conditions, squatting on private or public land. Many of them are at immediate threat of eviction. Many others continue to live in flimsy structures made of bamboo and tarpaulin. The government’s distribution of funds to rebuild homes means little to this group; they have no place where to rebuild their houses. 

The NRA has declared in its Post Disaster Recovery Framework (PDRF) that it will find sites to relocate the displaced—sites close to their original settlements. However, in the year and a half since the earthquakes, there has been absolutely no progress on this front. 

NRA officials now say that they will have to conduct a new study to determine which settlements have been rendered uninhabitable and that the previous study by the home ministry is unreliable. 

However, there is no indication of when such a new survey might start. This is a deeply unfortunate state of affairs. Those who have been displaced by the earthquakes cannot be left in limbo for very much longer. Now that the distribution of funds for rebuilding houses is underway, the NRA should concentrate its attention on conducting a study of risky settlements and, together with the relevant ministries, identify areas where the displaced can be resettled. 

Published: 27-10-2016 08:23

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