Now for a common vision to rebuild the country and complete the constitution.
Nearly two weeks after the devastating earthquake, Nepalis are slowly and painfully coming to terms with the loss of life, livelihoods, homes
and our cultural heritage
. The road ahead is long and difficult: rebuilding our cities and towns and restoring our national confidence will require immense work and sincerity. But if the past weeks are any indication, the future looks promising.
Since noon of that fateful Saturday, hundreds of ordinary citizens have been risking their lives and working tirelessly on the ground
providing first aid, food, and shelter to survivors. International rescue teams and aid agencies have also stepped in to work shoulder to shoulder with their Nepali counterparts. The security forces have earned well-deserved praise for being at the forefront of search, rescue, and relief efforts. Their ability to adapt and sound crisis management practices have no doubt saved many lives and helped with damage control.
However, the response from other government agencies
has been uncoordinated, inefficient, and inadequate. Although the government of Nepal has established a chain of command for disaster management, incompetent leadership and infighting hampered relief efforts in the crucial hours following the quake. For the first 24 hours or so, the political leadership of the country was conspicuous by its absence. When the leaders finally resurfaced, they were still dumbfounded and had nothing worthwhile to contribute. Rapid assistance from neighbouring countries was valuable, but prior cooperation and coordination could have produced better results.
Despite the millions that have gone into disaster preparedness and training, 25 April exposed how woefully unprepared
our national government was in handling a major calamity. Now in the aftermath of the ‘Big One’, the state owes it to the people of this country to give us a blueprint
on how it intends to go about achieving relief, reconstruction, and rehabilitation work not just in the next few months but for the long-term.
Nepalis need to know how the state is planning
to deal with immediate relief work like providing shelter, food, water, medicine, hygiene and sanitation. When schools and colleges resume in mid- May, how will it ensure that the buildings and the students are safe? Where will the tons and tons of debris be disposed off? Who is responsible for the safe keeping of the cultural artefacts collected from fallen temples and historical sites?
More than eight million people in Central Nepal have been affected by the earthquake. So offering tents and few days worth food, water, and supplies won’t be enough. For the mid-term, the government has to plan on sheltering and feeding families for at least three to six months. This will require great coordination and transparency in collecting, storing, and distributing relief materials, The state’s report card on this front is not too promising as victims of the Sunkosi landslide of August 2014
are yet to be resettled.
Once the government has devised a clear short-term road map, it must then begin planning for long-term rehabilitation and reconstruction. However, this can only be possible after a thorough assessment of damage is carried out, a task where Nepal might need foreign expertise. Then there is the arduous task of coordinating with line ministries, development partners, and donors to execute the plan. The challenge here will be to cut through reams of bureaucratic red tape as quickly and efficiently as possible. As rescue efforts wind down, the role of the security forces will also decline. However, with their manpower and resources the army, police, and armed police force have a crucial role to play in nation building, but will need to be utilised effectively.
While this national tragedy has taken off spotlight from day-to-day politics, our leaders would be wrong to presume that the Nepali people have forgotten about constitution drafting. If the political parties can set aside their differences and work on a common vision to rebuild our weakened country and also complete the constitution quickly, they will earn back a lot of goodwill that they have lost over the years.
Other countries that have been ravaged by natural disasters have withstood the initial blow, used the tragedy to rally together, and come out stronger as a result. Our senior leadership will now need to look at the silver lining in this calamity and get Nepal to stand on its own feet.
Victor Rana is a retired Major General of the Nepal Army and used to head the Department of Military Operations.
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