Victims suffer as rebuilding work dragsPolitical meddling, lack of autonomy, acute shortage of skilled workers, materials and victims’ awareness on guidelines have slowed reconstruction works, two former chief executive officers of the National Reconstruction Authority said on Wednesday—the third anniversary of the Gorkha Earthquake.
Political meddling, lack of autonomy, acute shortage of skilled workers, materials and victims’ awareness on guidelines have slowed reconstruction works, two former chief executive officers of the National Reconstruction Authority said on Wednesday—the third anniversary of the Gorkha Earthquake.
The earthquake on April 25, 2015 killed nearly 9,000 people and damaged or destroyed homes of thousands.
Speaking to the Post, former NRA chief Govinda Raj Pokharel said, “The failure to create a powerful body to look after reconstruction is to be blamed for slow progress. The progress achieved so far is not unsatisfactory within the structure and working environment we have.”
He also cited political meddling since the inception of the authority for the current situation.
Another former NRA chief Sushil Gyawali also listed causes for the delay in reconstruction work.
NRA’s focus on providing housing grant forgetting other requisites like interest free loan on collective collateral, failure to train adequate number of masons, slow pace of procuring construction materials, lack of engineers and insistence on concrete structures hindered progress, Gyawali said. He feels there is a need to increase co-ordination with victims and understanding the existing guidelines to make reconstruction successful.
Successive governments have made tall claims on the status of reconstruction. In reality, the work is far from satisfactory with many survivors struggling to rebuild their homes destroyed by the earthquake, people familiar with the project said.
Experts feel the task set by political leaders without understanding the real circumstances, frequent changes in the leadership of NRA and inefficient coordination among stakeholders are the reasons for the current impasse.
“The feeling within NRA leadership that providing grants to quake survivors alone would help rebuilding home seems to have caused the problem,” said Gyawali.
The NRA has rebuilt 141,744 private houses while 438,334 houses are under construction. It has completed survey of 996,582 households of which 767,705 qualify government support of Rs300,000.
“Around 12-13 percent of private home have been reconstructed so far,” said Gyawali.
The number of households that need reconstruction would increase to one million if houses qualified for retrofitting and those registering grievances are included.
The slow progress has affected external funding. Of the $4.1 billon pledged by international donors, the NRA has stakes in expenditure of $2.62 billion while donors would disburse the remaining sum through other channels.
Obtaining this amount does not seem to be easy for the government.
Speaking at an earthquake commemorative event on Wednesday Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli urged the international donors to fulfill their pledges.
Pokharel blames the lethargic approach of the bureaucracy and the donors’ strict conditions for this issue. “Most of the donors have pledged amounts earmarking the exact location as well as sector, making things complex,” he said.
He claimed a number of donors have started using the pledged fund through other channels.
The former chiefs suggest the NRA should involve authorities at the local level and strengthen monitoring to expedite reconstruction.
The situation of reconstruction of sector like schools, health, government building and heritage is equally bad.
The government led by the then prime minister Sushil Koirala formed the NRA in August 2015. They scraped it after the failure to table a bill. They set it up again on December 2015. The then government led by KP Sharma Oli dismissed Pokharel, the first CEO. Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s government removed Gyawali and reistated Pokharel. Yubaraj Bhusal took over on October 23, 2017 after Pokharel resigned to contest the federal elections.