Comprehensive recoveryInitiatives to address quake survivors’ social vulnerability must be scaled up
The second anniversary of the earthquake of April 25, 2015 is just around the corner. Reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts remain of paramount importance. The Post Disaster Reconstruction Framework (PRDF) envisioned that the reconstruction of individual houses would be completed within three years, and other works to rebuild schools, health posts, heritage sites, drinking water facilities, government buildings, bridges and roads would be completed within five years. But the slow pace of progress indicates that this timeline may be too ambitious.
A report, “Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal” was recently released by The Asia Foundation. As a four-phase study, this series allows a way to keep track of how earthquake survivors are dealing with changing circumstances. Findings released following the third and most recent phase reveal a slew of problems. As many as 71 percent of the victims continue to live in temporary shelters, and with the flow of aid diminishing, many have to rely on loans from informal sources at high interest rates to sustain their livelihood. There is resentment at what the victims perceive as sluggish recovery efforts, contentious damage assessments and mistargeting of aid.
The National Reconstruction Authority, as the coordinating agency handling the reconstruction process, has to take its share of blame for the slow pace of rebuilding. Yet, given the political instability, the months-long blockade and the numerous bureaucratic hurdles, it is not difficult to see why logistical issues have prevented the NRA from performing its job efficiently.
Despite setbacks, the NRA has carried out some of its mandate. Distribution of the second tranche (Rs150,000) of aid for building homes damaged or destroyed by the earthquakes has begun in the 14 severely affected districts. Private housing aid distribution in the 17 less affected districts has also commenced with the disbursement of the first tranche (Rs50,000). The NRA has also unveiled low cost houses that can be built within the allotted Rs300,000 for reconstruction. The Centre for Technical Education and Vocational Training (CTEVT) has deployed final year students of Civil and Architect Engineering to assist engineers. The NRA has also attempted to address the issue of landless squatters who occupy public land and spaces; they will be given Rs100,000 to buy land to build homes. Additionally, individual houses in highly risk-prone areas will be provided Rs200,000 for resettlement.
Reconstruction work is continuing, albeit at a slower pace than what is necessary. It is equally important to address other socio-economic impacts of the earthquake. Documents from the NRA and the National Planning Commission attest that thousands of survivors are leading fragile and vulnerable lives. Initiatives to address these impacts must be scaled up in order for Nepal to truly recover apace.