Many families in Valley’s core areas are forced to live in quake-damaged houses

  • Seventy percent of quake-hit families have not demolished their homes for reconstruction
- Arjun Poudel, Kathmandu

Apr 25, 2019-

When the 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck the country on April 25, 2015, the world around Saraswati Maharjan started collapsing.

Maharjan managed to survive the disaster, as did her old house in Yatkhabahal, in Kathmandu, but it suffered severe damages. “Everything around me fell apart, yet my house did not collapse,” said the 46-year-old who still lives in the same quake-damaged house which stands upright supported by wooden beams.

However, slight vibrations, such as that from a moving vehicle, causes specks of dust to fall off the walls and the ceiling. Her old house is built of mud and bricks. The wooden beams that currently support the structure have also become weak after being exposed to the vagaries of weather in the last four years.

“We have put some plastic sheets on the bedroom walls and ceiling, and the kitchen area to prevent mud falling on our heads,” Maharjan, a mother of five, told the Post.

Even after four years since the devastating quake, the family has neither been able to move to another location nor have they been able to rebuild the crumbling house.

“We hardly make enough to manage our monthly expenses. We cannot afford to rebuild the house right now,” she said.

Like Maharjan, thousands of quake victims of the districts of Kathmandu Valley—Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Lalitpur—have been living in quake-damaged houses that are delicately supported by wooden beams for the past four years.

According to the National Reconstruction Authority, the body responsible for overseeing the reconstruction process, about 70 percent of quake victims of the Valley are yet to start demolishing or reconstructing their damaged houses. In comparison to the Valley, the rest of the country has done much more in the reconstruction phase, as over 50 percent quake survivors of other districts have completed reconstruction works and 30 percent of them are in the process of rebuilding.

In terms of victims receiving the state’s financial help, of the 101,277 beneficiaries of the Valley, only 90,704 have received the first tranche (Rs 50,000) which is the first instalment of the total Rs 300,000 housing grant. About 10,000 families are yet to receive the first instalment. Among the quake survivors, who received the first tranche, only 34,677 have received the second installment, which means 56,027 have not yet started the reconstruction works. Only 20,262 have either received or applied for the third installment. Apart from the Rs300,000 housing grant, the government had also announced a loan up to Rs2.5 million at a minimal interest rate.

Despite the provisions, post-earthquake reconstruction has failed to take off in the Valley because access to government agencies and financial institutions is limited and the process to apply for and receive government grant tedious and lengthy.

Dhurba Sharma, an executive committee member of the National Reconstruction Authority, conceded that genuine victims from the Valley have not received bank loans for reconstruction of their houses due to several hassles, such as people not qualifying for loans or failing to deliver  paperwork.

Kalpana Shrestha from Tengale, Kathmandu, said that her family has been residing in a rented flat after the quake damaged their house. “Ever since we moved, we have been struggling to pay rent,” said Shrestha.

According to Shrestha, her husband and brother-in-law approached several banks and financial institutions for the loan scheme proposed by the government to reconstruct their house, but they were turned down by all, stating that the family does not qualify for a loan for lack of sufficient income source.

That apart, many quake survivors in the core areas of the Valley have lived in the lands passed down for generations, and do not have land ownership certificates. Majority of houses in these core areas were built on a small piece of land—not exceeding one aana—and the houses were built in such a way that they stood supporting each other.

Even those who have the resources to demolish and reconstruct their houses  cannot do so since the demolition of their house can likely cause the adjoining houses to collapse.

Rupesh Shrestha of Maru Ganeshsthan said his family has been unable demolish his house. “The house adjoining ours will crumble if we demolish our house,” said Shrestha. “This damaged house cannot be rebuilt; we have to demolish it and build a new one.”

Published: 25-04-2019 10:45

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