Dead and buriedDissolution of Reconstruction Authority reveals govt’s disregard of quake victims
On September 2, family members of those who died in the Great Earthquake took out a procession on the occasion of Gaijatra. Friends and relatives of the 343 people who lost their lives in the April quake from Bhaktapur held up placards with the pictures of the dead and organised themselves in Bhaktapur Durbar Square. Hopefully, this rally served as a much needed reminder to concerned authorities of the earthquake that took place just five months ago—which killed nearly 9,000 people—and the still pending reconstruction work which is yet to even begin.
In the immediate aftermath of the quake, the government announced the creation of the Nepal Reconstruction Authority (NRA) and even allocated Rs 91 billion for it in the budget. Last month, the government even appointed the current vice-chairperson of the National Planning Commission as the Chief Executive Officer of the Reconstruction Authority. But because a bill was not created within one month of the ordinance which created the NRA as required by the law, the Authority has now been temporarily dissolved.
This utter lack of political consideration is depressing given that almost ten percent of the earthquake-affected population are still in need of proper shelter, food and basic medicines according to the UN. In Dolakha, one of the most-affected districts, authorities say that they cannot help the victims to rebuild their houses because they neither have the required funds nor have they received proper guidelines to do so. Their hands will remain tied until the Reconstruction Authority comes into operation. In addition, it has recently been reported that Sindhupalchowk, the district which suffered the maximum number of casualties, faces severe food insecurity as well. People there are unable to afford food or other basic commodities without selling their assets. This should alarm the concerned authorities. When people start selling their assets for survival post-disaster it will leave them even more vulnerable to future threats.
Currently, the government has been too distracted with the constitution making and the violence that has followed. But that is no excuse to ignore the plight of the quake victims. While the hurry to promulgate the constitution is understandable, it should not halt the reconstruction process, which is equally important. Earthquake victims have somehow managed to make it through the monsoon. But as the winter is coming, the reconstruction cannot be delayed any further. The government should immediately pass the bill to allow the Reconstruction Authority to begin work at the earliest. Meanwhile, I/NGOs and the civil society working for the quake-affected population should continue to pressure the government to begin reconstruction by continuously highlighting the plight of the quake victims. The media could also persistently report on the state of the quake affected people and keep the government on its toes.