21-27 July 2017 #868

Rebuilding for all

Govind Pokharel
Despite delays and the massive challenges ahead, the National Reconstruction Authrority (NRA) is catching up with the needs of survivors of the 2015 earthquake. Of the 1 million families surveyed, 749,796 were eligible for reconstruction grants, 599,324 households received the first tranche, 45,000 houses have been rebuilt and 115,000 are under construction, many yet to report to the NRA system. Half of affected schools are built.

After the Gujarat earthquake reconstruction was faster, but the institution that led the task had more decision-making authority and flexibility. Realising delays and grasping new opportunities, we are now working with newly-elected local governments empowered to make quick decisions to redress grievances, mobilise human resources and make recommendations for housing grants.

Because of socio-political pressure we have focussed so far on rebuilding private homes. But from this year we will broaden our efforts to include social infrastructure like gumbas, university buildings and living heritage. We will also support livelihood activities, private sector promotion, gender empowerment and social inclusion.

Our objective is to complete most rebuilding on schedule and strengthen the capacity of ministries and departments, the private sector and communities to be ready for the next possible earthquake. The most important lesson from this tragedy is the need to internalise the concept of Build Back Better. We are pleased to see this happening: for example, of the 80,000 mostly rural households that claimed second grants so far, less than 10% did not comply with resilience standards.

We will make stronger efforts to ensure that deprived and marginalised groups, including single mothers, the elderly, people with disabilities, the extreme poor, and Dalits, are not left behind. A mechanism to permit partnerships with the non-governmental sector to address this issue has been liberalised. Extra grants of Rs2 million are earmarked for vulnerable households that need to be relocated because of landslide risk. The landless will also get an extra Rs200,000 if they wish to buy land and register it.

The NRA will launch an extensive retrofitting campaign so that, where possible, old houses that are maintaining rural scenic beauty, darbars and other traditional architecture will be preserved and made safer. Cost-effective correction manuals are being developed so that households that have not met compliance can improve easily and claim grants. Families will save a lot of money if they don’t have to demolish their homes, but retrofit them. We are revising our procurement policies for heritage reconstruction to permit community participation and to allow direct procurement of valuable products and traditional craftsmanship.

The social and economic components of reconstruction are as important as the physical ones. NRA is facilitating efforts to provide land certificates to those who never had them, including households belonging to Guthi, Ailani, Birta, etc, so they can receive government grants. The idea of economic reconstruction is that Nepalis should live in improved, safer houses and also have better livelihoods with higher incomes.
Our institutional capacities are weak, we lack skilled human resources and flexible financial mechanisms, and the country is in the midst of a political transition. Today the resource gap for physical rebuilding stands at $3.9 billion but if we can add financing, we can complete most reconstruction in the next three years.

Govind Pokharel heads the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA).

Read Also

Build back alone, Shreejana Shrestha

Reconstructing the reconstruction authority, Om Astha Rai

All together now, Sashi Shrestha

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