Recovery works far from over

- ANISH TIWARI, SUDIP KAINI, SINDHUPALCHOK / GORKHA

Apr 24, 2017-

It has been two years since the destructive Gorkha Earthquake that claimed nearly 9,000 lives and destroyed thousands of houses in different parts the country. And in this period, not a lot has changed in terms of recovery. There are many earthquake-displaced families who are living in temporary shelters till this day, their damaged or destroyed homes waiting to be rebuilt. 

The country’s road to recovery has been slow, and with the current pace of reconstruction works taking place in the earthquake-hit districts, it appears that it is going to be a long time before those displaced families are rehabilitated.  

In Sindhupalchok, one of the worst affected districts, only around 7,000 families have started building new homes with the housing reconstruction aid that is being provided by the government’s National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) in three instalments.

The first instalment of the aid, Rs 50,000 per family, was received by 74,918 families in the district. Officials at the NRA’s district coordination committee say among the households who took the first batch of the aid, 1,817 have applied for the second instalment and 114 for the third.

The NRA has so far distributed the second instalment of the aid to only 443 households so far. The fact that less than 10% of the quake-hit families have started constructing homes two years after the disaster goes to show how far the recovery works have progressed. 

Yuvaraj Ghimire, the chief of the Urban Development and Building Reconstruction Division Office (UDBRDO), said the reconstruction works would not be this slow had the NRA managed and mobilised its technical staff effectively. He believes that the sooner the earthquake victims receive the housing aid, sooner they will start constructing their homes.

The NRA technical staff are tasked with inspection of under-construction homes, verify if they meet the safety standards and issue recommendation for the next instalment of the aid.

“The technical staff are yet to inspect homes in many parts of Sindhupalchok. Many of them are not even in the district,” Ghimire said.

“There are 222 technical staff currently working in the district, but not all of them are in their designated areas.” 

He added that the technical staff have done verifying only 774 houses for the second tranche of housing aid and only 45 for the third.

The recovery progress in Gorkha, the epicentre of the earthquake, is also hardly an exception.

Many earthquake-affected families in the district have moved to new homes, but none of them had relied on the government’s housing aid.

As for those who are building their homes with the aid money, the construction works are far from over. 

Officials say only 1,129 families have received the second instalment of the aid so far and that the verification process is still under way. 

Sunita Shrestha, an engineer at the UDBRDO, said Gorkha, too, lacked technical staff to verify the earthquake-affected houses.

“Only about 60 percent of the technical staff are working in their designated areas. The verification process has been slow, which has hit aid distribution and rebuilding,” she said. The paucity of technical staff has certainly slowed the recovery works, but in the grand scheme of things, one should also factor in the many other setbacks, particularly the dispute concerning the NRA leadership and the lack of stable government, for the delay. 

Published: 24-04-2017 07:55

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