Shortage of masons threatens to hamper reconstruction efforts

- Post Report, Kathmandu

Jan 25, 2017-

The shortage of technical staff, ranging from engineers, sub-overseers to trained masons is likely to further delay the rebuilding efforts of the damaged houses after the Gorkha earthquake, according to the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA). 

The Ministry of Finance on Sunday released Rs 7.8 billion out of the total Rs28 billion asked by the NRA for the distribution of the second tranche of housing aid to the affected families. The government has announced the second instalment of Rs300,000 will be distributed to those who have received the first tranche and completed the construction of the plinth level of the house. 

The distribution of the second instalment of the private housing aid is underway in three districts and the NRA plans to extend it to the remaining 11 most 

earthquake-affected districts soon. But the shortage of engineers to inspect the construction works and trained masons to adhere to the compliance standard is likely to leave a majority of the households without access to the second instalment. As of Monday, a little over 100 households have received the second instalment after successful verification by the engineers. A total of 20,879 houses are undergoing construction, while 41,311 houses have been completed. 

“Poor mobilisation of the technical staff on the ground to assist the affected households to rebuild their damaged house is one of the critical challenges facing us now,” said the newly-appointed NRA Chief Executive Govind Raj Pokharel. 

The Post Disaster Need Assessment report, prepared by the National Planning Commission under Pokharel immediately after the Gorkha Eearthquake in April 2015, had identified that 60,000-trained masons and technical staff will be required to rebuild around 600,000 houses destroyed in the disaster. However, hardly 5,000 have been mobilised in the districts to assist and oversee rebuilding of the private houses, according to the NRA. Likewise, around 2,400 

engineers, overseers and sub-overseers have been mobilised in 11 of the 14-most affected districts. 

The shortage of technical resources, particularly masons and carpenters, have again halted the reconstruction of houses in many districts even after receiving the first instalment, said Deputy Spokesperson for the NRA Bhisma Kumar Bhusal. 

The majority of households that have already received the first tranche of the aid have not even started rebuilding, Bhusal noted. “To become eligible for the government’s housing grant, the households have to follow the compliance standard including building earthquake-resistant structures. But there is no one to guide them,” he said. Of the total 626,036 households registered for the housing grant in 14 districts, 482,856 have received the first instalment. A total of 549,443 households have signed tripartite agreements for the grant. 

Pokharel has already asked the government to call on the universities and engineering colleges to mobilise the final-year students of the Bachelor-level programme in the districts as volunteers. Last week, the Nepal Army and the NRA have agreed on mobilising around 200 army 

personnel to assist in the rebuilding efforts in selected districts. Besides, the NRA is holding a meeting with the Armed Police Force this week to seek their technical staff to mobilise in the districts facing the shortage.

Published: 25-01-2017 08:08

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