Govt action plan gathers dustEven as winter sets in, the government has not been able to disburse relief amount to earthquake victims for rebuilding their homes due to lack of coordination between ministries
Even as winter sets in, the government has not been able to disburse relief amount to earthquake victims for rebuilding their homes due to lack of coordination between ministries and delay in the formation of a reconstruction authority.
It has been exactly one month on Sunday since the Cabinet endorsed an action plan for releasing grant assistance meant for houses destroyed by the April 25 earthquake. The action plan details the roles of various units under the Ministry of Urban Development and the Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development responsible for providing victims with compensation but the two ministries have not begun cooperation yet.
One reason for delay in compensating earthquake victims is the delay in the formation of a reconstruction authority, the chairman of which would have acted as coordinator of entire reconstruction effort on part of the government. But sources say the ministries could have moved ahead with the plan regardless if there was cooperation between them.
“There is no mechanism between the two ministries to work together and nothing has been done to create one,” a joint-secretary at MoUD told the Post on condition of anonymity. “The Office of the Prime Minister could have acted as a coordinator but it has not done anything as well.”
Earlier, the government had decided to provide up to Rs200,000 to those who wish to reconstruct houses completely damaged by the earthquake on their own. Similarly, it had decided to provide Rs2.5 million for quake-affected people urban areas and Rs1.5 million for rural areas as special housing loan in order to reconstruct their houses with a 2 percent concessional interest rate.
The action plan intends to provide the lump sum grant of Rs200,000 and the concessional loan in four instalments through local bodies with technical support from Urban Development Department and division offices. Local bodies like municipalities and VDCs are under the MoFALD while Urban Development Department and division offices are under the MoUD so they must work in unison to complete compensation distribution throughout the country. The government has allocated Rs91 billion in this year’s budget to be used for reconstruction. However, no substantial work has been done in the absence of the National Reconstruction Authority which the government put forward as the official agency for rebuilding the nation. Despite forming the authority through an ordinance, the government failed to replace the ordinance with a bill, rendering the NRA invalid.
Apart from the unimplemented action plan for reconstruction grant, other government plans and policies are also in limbo in the absence of the NRA and coordination between government agencies. After the earthquake, the government also formulated Fundamental Construction Bylaws on Settlement Development, Urban Planning and Building Construction 2015 for developing safer community to deal with future disaster risks and Post Earthquake Recovery and Reconstruction Policy 2015 for settlement reestablishment, among others. But all are gathering dust in lack of implementation.
The Gorkha earthquake completely destroyed more than 600,000 houses and damaged close to 300,000 others, and survivors are still living in temporary shelters.