7-13 August 2015 #770

Strategy for recovery

A report by ICIMOD highlights the need to reduce vulnerability to future earthquakes and floods by integrating preparedness
Sonia Awale

Nearly two months after the International Conference on Nepal’s Reconstruction on 25 June, an independent rehabilitation agency had still not been set up till press time Thursday. Meanwhile, 2 million earthquake-affected people are struggling to survive and waiting for help with reconstruction.

Amidst all the confusion, a new report by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) highlights the need to reduce vulnerability to future earthquakes and floods by integrating preparedness and mitigation as part of post-disaster livelihood recovery process. 

As the title suggests, Strategic Framework for Resilient Livelihoods in Earthquake Affected Areas of Nepal is a deliberately dry document riddled with development jargon. But between the lines, it has important advice that should be heeded by the new Reconstruction Authority

The buzzword ‘livelihood recovery’ appears often in the report and ICIMOD admits this is an enormous task given the extent of the quake damage. More than 600,000 homes, 7,000 schools and 700 health facilities were destroyed – it is a huge challenge to rebuild not just infrastructure but also lives.

The Nepal Planning Commission’s NPC Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) report pointed out that Nepal lacks not only the financial resources for rehabilitation but also the technical skills. The NPC has also drafted a Recovery and Reconstruction Policy that aims to ‘centralise planning and decentralise implementation’. The earthquake is seen as an opportunity to create jobs for Nepalis who would otherwise migrate abroad for work.

There will be a surge of demand for workers when the reconstruction grants start being distributed. Jobs will depend on the skills for contractor-driven, owner-driven or people-centered reconstruction.

ICIMOD warns that when livelihoods are being revitalised, care should be taken not to create dependency. Instead of food aid, it advocates distributing seeds, providing farm machinery, and extension for alternative crops that require less water since irrigation canals were damaged.

It suggests soft loans to bigger farmers for the replacement of livestock, and free livestock for small and middle income farmers. It highlights the power of social media to revive rural tourism.

‘While the earthquake has affected all segments of society, the impact isn’t equally distributed and the livelihood recovery interventions should ensure that reconstruction process doesn’t perpetuate inequalities already existing in society,’ says the report. This is confirmed by the PDNA which estimates that 700,000 people have been pushed below the poverty line by the earthquake. The most vulnerable are always the women, children, elderly, daily wage workers, and the marginalised. It is they who need special attention in livelihood recovery strategies.  

The reports derives lessons from the 2005 Kashmir earthquake and its recovery with the combination of new earthquake-resistant construction, Gujarat (2001) which had strong government systems for long-term livelihoods promotion. Haiti (2010) is cited for its mistake not to use local resources post-disaster.

The report’s main conclusion is to ‘build back better’ involving existing community groups which can be a strong drivers in the livelihood recovery process. Non-affected areas of Nepal can play a vital role in supplying the required resources like construction materials, human resources and food.

Read also:

Jump-starting the economy, Sarthak Mani Sharma

Ruin in the rain, Sahina Shrestha

Made to jump through hoops, Editorial

The disaster is not over, David Seddon