Snail-paced Reconstruction Work

Uttam Maharjan

It has been over two years since the devastating earthquake struck Nepal on April 25, 2015. When the earthquake struck all of a sudden, the government was at sixes and sevens. It was completely taken aback as to what to do. Anyway, the government was able to convene an international donors’ meeting in June of that year and the donor countries and agencies pledged a whopping sum of money amounting to 4.4 billion US dollars for reconstruction and rehabilitation purposes. This instilled hope in the people that the earthquake victims would be able to pick the pieces soon as the government seemed to have shown alacrity.

The earthquake and subsequent aftershocks killed around 9,000 people and damaged or destroyed an umpteenth number of structures, including houses, buildings, schools and heritage sites. The government also announced a concessional loan scheme for the earthquake victims: Rs. 2.5 million for the Valley and Rs. 1.5 million for outside the Valley. But only a handful of people have availed themselves of this scheme so far, the main reason being unaffordable conditions put forward by banks. In fact, the conditions are on a par with those for their regular clients. Most of the earthquake victims were not in a position to fulfil these conditions. For example, the condition for access roads is difficult to fulfil in the rural areas.
It was unfortunate that even politics crept into the formation of the National Reconstruction Commission (NRA). The government squandered a precious lot of time on forming the Commission. The delay in reconstruction and rehabilitation works began right from this very point. The work of the Commission has since been progressing rather slowly. As a result, not all the earthquake victims have got all the grants for reconstruction. As the grants are being provided in tranches, some earthquake victims have even used the grants for some other purposes. However, the Commission has announced that all the earthquake victims should have taken the grants within this fiscal year as it cannot always keep on distributing the grants. It intends to close the grant chapter and concentrate its attention on other works.
Although reconstruction works have been going on, their progress leaves much to be desired. It is pertinent to mention that the UNESCO asked the government to start that reconstruction of heritage sites by September 14. Failing to do so may lead to delisting of the world heritage sites. What are the reasons that have prevented the heritage sites from being reconstructed?
Controversy is rife virtually in every sector. Similarly, the reconstruction drive is also riddled with controversies of one kind or the other. For example, the Dharahara monument was once proposed to be rebuilt with donations collected from the people. Some funds were also collected for this purpose. Later, Nepal Telecom pledged to rebuild the monument with its own funds. The company has now backed down from the project. The Kathmandu Metropolitan City has now offered to rebuild the monument. The Bal Gopal temple in the middle of Rani Pokhari has been in a state of neglect due to controversies over the style of reconstruction. The famous Kasthamandap temple at MaruTole was once proposed to be rebuilt with public donations. Now, the Kathmandu Metropolitan City has come forward to rebuild the temple.
It is a matter of shame that the world famous monuments should lie in a state of utter neglect. Funds are not the main problem. It is nonchalance on the part of the government and the concerned authorities like the Department of Archaeology that has caused inordinate delay in the reconstruction drive. Further, while restoring such monuments, the classical style should be adopted as far as possible. There should not be any compromise in this regard.
The government has not been able to receive all the grants and assistance pledged by various donor countries and agencies over two years ago. In fact, since the donors’ conference, the government has not tried to get the funds. The political parties also do not show any interest in this matter. They are mired in their own games: how to make or break governments. Three or four governments had changed since the earthquake, which shows the incidence of political instability in the country. Political instability and the lingering transition period are also to blame for the snail-paced reconstruction drive.
In the intervening period since the earthquake, some important political events have taken place. With the promulgation of the Constitution, elections to the local polls except in Province 2 have been held. The election to the local poll in the province is taking place on September 18, whereas elections to the provincial and federal assemblies are taking place on November 26 and December 7. After these elections, the country will go federal in a full-fledged way.
The political parties and leaders will be busy arranging their affairs after all the three-tier elections have been held. They will be busy cobbling together provincial and federal governments. But these activities should be taken as political, pure and simple, which should not interfere in the reconstruction drive. The reconstruction drive has already been tardy; the country cannot afford the delay any more.

After the federal setup comes into being in a full-fledged manner, there will be many irons in the fire to be accomplished to lead the country to the path of prosperity. All the engines of the economy need to be boosted up. Tourism being one of the important components of the economy, we cannot attract tourists to the country just to let them see the sights of the earthquake-ravaged monuments and other structures. So it is high time the government paid unstinted and assiduous attention to the reconstruction as well as rehabilitation works without any delay.



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