Rebuilding work fails to progress as expected in Gorkha districtIt has been almost four years since the devastating Gorkha earthquake claimed around 8,790 lives, destroyed thousands of houses and displaced hundreds in its wake.
It has been almost four years since the devastating Gorkha earthquake claimed around 8,790 lives, destroyed thousands of houses and displaced hundreds in its wake. However, the reconstruction of residential houses in the quake-ravaged Gorkha, the epicentre of 7.8 magnitude earthquake on April 25, 2015, has not been carried out as expected.
According to the District Project Implementation Unit of the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA), about 72 percent private houses have been reconstructed in the district so far. As per the data available at the unit, 70,988 private houses were destroyed in the earthquake. Among them, 65, 678 houses have been enlisted in the housing reconstruction aid list, while 5,310 have been categorised as partially damaged and enlisted for maintenance.
The government has been providing Rs300,000 as housing reconstruction aid, which it is giving out in three tranches. A beneficiary gets Rs50,000 in the first tranche and Rs150,000 is issued after NRA technicians establish that the foundation of the house has been laid. The final tranche of Rs100,000 is provided after the completion of the reconstructed house.
Shailendra Bhatta, the engineer at the unit, said that 64,455 households have already received the first tranche, while 57,177 of them have received the second tranche. The completion of the housing reconstruction in the district has been delayed because 6,533 quake-affected families are yet to sign up for the housing reconstruction aid agreement with the authority. The NRA district unit said it had already written to the local units to find the beneficiaries who are yet to sign the aid agreement.
“There are additional challenges as some beneficiaries have not come to sign the housing reconstruction agreement. We have urged the local units to find those beneficiaries and the reason for their absence,” said Bhatta.
NRA officials believe that only 75 percent of the earthquake affected people have reached out to government authorities for the housing reconstruction aid. Officials say the reason why people are not applying for the aid is because some residents already own houses in other parts of the country, some lack land ownership certificate and others think that the aid amount is not enough to rebuild a house.
The NRA district unit also claimed that some people enlisted in the housing reconstruction aid are not real earthquake victims. These “fake” victims received the first tranche, but did not initiate the process to build their houses. “Nineteen such fake earthquake victims returned the first tranche after they failed to qualify for the second,” said Bhatta. According to him, 3,594 people were categorised as “fake” earthquake victims while 810 families were found possessing houses in other parts of the country which automatically disqualifies them from receiving the housing reconstruction aid.
On the other hard, there are some earthquake displaced people who claim to be genuine victims who were deprived of the housing reconstruction aid. Such people come to be 19,038, who have filed complaints with the NRA district unit; among them 2,149 complaints are yet to be taken into consideration.
According to NRA technicians, some earthquake victims have constructed houses ignoring the basic standards set by the government authorities. “Basic standards have not been adhered to, with some beneficiaries even claiming the housing aid for houses built before the earthquake,” said Bikendra Khaitu, another engineer working at the NRA district unit.
Rights activists and elected representatives are of the opinion that the delay in reconstruction is a result of the lengthy legal process that is there to acquire the aid. “Such aid should be provided to survivors without any hassle. They have been denied of the aid on various pretexts,” said Ramesh Adhikari, a rights activist. They also blamed the government authorities for not taking effective measures on the situation of landless people and people living in landslide prone zone.