Editorial

Nepal’s slow recovery

  • Four years since the earthquake, and some people are still bedding down in temporary shelters.

Apr 25, 2019-

It has been four years since the devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit Nepal. The quake, coupled with another 7.3 magnitude aftershock, among other smaller tremors, caused major destruction and claimed around 9,000 lives. However, the progress we have made in recovering from this disaster is far from satisfactory; people are still homeless and living in camps. Given how prone Nepal is to earthquakes, the importance of open public spaces cannot be overstated, especially in urban areas like Kathmandu, which are overcrowded. But the government is yet to make creating open spaces a priority.

Ironically, whatever little open spaces we have, like the Tundikhel or Khula Manch, the government has been actively using it for construction purposes. What’s more, while our capacity to manage disaster response has been comparatively better, it is still largely proactive rather than reactive. During the 2015 earthquake, Tundikhel provided shelter to thousands--proving that open spaces are very useful in times of crisis.

Furthermore, reconstruction efforts of heritage and cultural sites have been shameful too. The work on reconstructing Dharahara, which used to be an iconic part of the Valley’s skyline, barely begun despite numerous promises by different political leaders. Rani Pokhari and Kasthmanadap lie in ruins, as a picture of official incompetence.

The National Reconstruction Authority had projected that the country would need Rs938 billion to carry out the reconstruction works. Earlier, the five-year Post Disaster Recovery Framework prepared by the NRA had estimated the recovery cost at Rs838 billion. Similarly, the Post Disaster Needs Assessment report of the National Planning Commission had put the cost at Rs669 billion. During the international conference organised in June 2015 for Nepal’s recovery after the devastating earthquake, donor agencies and neighbouring countries had committed to provide Rs410 billion. Of the pledged amount, Rs67 billion was spent on rescue and relief works.

Speaking at a press conference earlier this week, Sushil Gyewali--the Chief Executive Officer of National Reconstruction Authority said that the biggest challenge in reconstruction and rehabilitation was financial management. What’s more, according to him, reshuffling of government employees led to the transfer of many experienced reconstruction staff to provincial and local governments and frequent changes in the NRA leadership, among others, affected the post-quake recovery works. Granted, these circumstances hindered the pace of reconstruction but the government, nonetheless, needs to up its game. Nepal lies atop a major faultline between two tectonic plates. In fact, only on Wednesday, a tremor was felt in Nepal and other parts of South Asia. Given this, reconstruction with emphasis to earthquake resilience should be a priority.

 

Published: 26-04-2019 06:37

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