Delayed Reconstruction Drive
A year has elapsed since the devastating earthquake shook Nepal, killing over 8,000 people and damaging nearly 600,000 houses, including ancient monuments listed in the World Heritage Sites of the Kathmandu Valley. The people are yet to overcome the trauma of the earthquake and its aftershocks. Moreover, the victims whose houses collapsed in the quake are yet to be able to rebuild their houses due mainly to the delay in initiating the reconstruction drive. As a result, most of the victims are still living in temporary makeshift houses while the international community has started raising questions about the government’s competency in rehabilitating the victims. Obviously, many factors - with the division among the major political parties being the major one - caused the delay in constituting the National Reconstruction Authority. The monsoon that began two months after the quake and the blockade on the supply of fuel to Nepal also obstructed the reconstruction process. Now the situation is such that the victims will be living in temporary shelters for two consecutive monsoon seasons, which should be a matter of shame for the government and the political parties because the delay was due to the tendency, prevalent among the ruling and opposition parties, of giving more importance to partisan interests than the national interest.
As such, Prime Minister K. P. Oli has said that the government is committed to providing safe shelters to the earthquake survivors within the rainy season. During a ‘talk to people’ programme on Nepal Television the other day, coinciding with the first anniversary of the earthquake, Prime Minister Oli said that the government would be setting up temporary community settlements for the difficult times. These remarks of Prime Minister Oli show that the government is serious in addressing the problems faced by the quake victims. However, at the same time, in trying to seek a temporary solution under a different pretext, it also reveals the incompetence and inefficiency of the government. Building temporary settlements even after a year of the quake will be only a waste of the resources accumulated in the name of the quake victims. However, there is no option because it is the duty of the government to help the needy people. Had the government launched the reconstruction drive immediately after the end of the monsoon and festival season, the people would have been living in strong and permanent homes. But this could not happen.
What is even more shameful is that the government has failed to prepare the required trained manpower to rebuild quake-resilient houses and historical monuments. Though Prime Minister Oli said the reconstruction work at Basantpur Durbar Square, a World Heritage Site damaged by the quake, would begin from April 25, he also did not forget to blame lack of trained artisans for the delay in rebuilding such sites. Then what did the government do for a year? Those unfamiliar with the political situation within the country as well as the role exhibited by some external forces think that the government’s performance was nil in the reconstruction drive. On the surface, it looks that way. Therefore, the government needs to speed up the pace of reconstruction by addressing all the problems impeding it. Otherwise, there is a risk of new elements surfacing to obstruct the rebuilding process if any further delay is done. This should be the message of the first anniversary of the devastating earthquake.
Surya Nath Upadhyaya is a member of the Eminent Persons’ Group (EPG) from Nepal’s side. The EPG has a two-year term, and it has already spent...