Two years have passed since the devastating earthquake, however there is dismal progress on the reconstruction front. Only 23,000 individual houses have been rebuilt in these two years due to slow distribution of government grants, lack of trained masons, lack of labour and lack of proper information about safe building codes. The National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) started distributing grants to beneficiary households nearly 11 months post earthquake. According to NRA, a total of 626,695 houses need to be rebuilt in the worst hit 14 districts of the central region of Nepal and around 100,000 individual houses had collapsed in 17 lesser affected districts.
NRA has been providing Rs 300,000 as government aid in three installments to rebuild affected households listed as government beneficiaries. The first tranche of Rs 50,000 was distributed to around 90 percent of affected families but very few have availed of the second tranche. NRA officials state that one third of the houses rebuilt have not complied with the safe building code and are thus being deprived from the second and third tranche of the government grant. The Ministry of Urban Development claims to have deployed 2,600 engineers in quake hit districts to create awareness on safe building codes. But it is reported that the engineers deployed stayed in the district headquarters instead of going on field.
Reconstruction of individual houses was given top priority by NRA as victims were living in makeshift conditions for two years. However, reconstruction is taking place at a disappointing pace and it is unlikely to be completed within five years as envisioned by the Post Disaster Recovery Framework (PDRF).
Increased costs of reconstruction
Cost of post earthquake reconstruction has gone up due to cost overrun caused by delay in reconstruction. Cost of reconstruction itself has increased to $ 9.38 billion from $ 7.86 billion after the incumbent government raised the housing reconstruction grant to Rs 300,000 from the earlier Rs 200,000, according to Govinda Raj Pokharel, CEO of NRA. The NRA has been working with various ministries for the implementation of reconstruction projects who are faced with similar problems that are occurring with regular development projects such as delay in preparation of project document, stringent environment and forest rules, low bidding and lack of capacity of contractors, among others.
In particular, delay in reconstruction of individual houses is due to lack of adequate funds, lack of trained masons and proper advice from the engineers. According to NRA, around 30,000 masons were trained by NRA and various other agencies working on post earthquake reconstruction. However, at least 60,000 trained masons are needed to expedite reconstruction, according to NRA.
Nepal’s reconstruction is not due to resource constraints. The government has allocated adequate amount in the fiscal budget to accelerate post earthquake reconstruction. The country is going to mobilise huge resources from the donor community and domestic resources for post earthquake reconstruction. According to Yam Lal Bhusal, spokesperson of NRA, the government has so far signed agreements with development partners to mobilise $ 3.1 billion out of total commitment of $ 4.1 billion from development partners pledged during the International Conference on Nepal’s Reconstruction. In last fiscal 2015-16, a total of Rs 81.22 billion was allocated for reconstruction and in this fiscal, it is Rs 108 billion. However, the cumulative figure of reconstruction expenses in the last two years hovers at Rs 34 billion, according to Bhusal.
The fundamental delay in reconstruction of houses is lack of money, according to Shankar Sharma, former Vice Chairman of the National Planning Commission. “If the government grant is provided in two tranches, Rs 150,000 each, more houses would have been rebuilt till date.”
The NRA has scheduled its tranche as Rs 50,000 first, Rs 150,000 and Rs 100,000 to follow. Those who have not complied with safe building codes while rebuilding will not be able to avail the second and third tranche. A large number of houses rebuilt have disqualified. Apart from the construction of around 23,000 individual houses and few schools and restoration of drinking water supply, the whole reconstruction drive has not made any significant headway.
Within two years of the earthquake, 16 non-life insurers of the country have settled 78 percent of the claimed amount of earthquake related cases. Out of the total claim of Rs 16.83 billion, Rs 13.19 billion has been settled in two years, according to Insurance Board, the insurance sector regulatory authority. In terms of numbers, 16,989 cases out of 17,784 have been settled. Raju Raman Paudel, Director of the Insurance Board finds the claim settlement to be satisfactory.
- December 16 – Parliament endorses Reconstruction Authority Bill
- December 20 – National Reconstruction Authority came into function after President Bidhya Devi Bhandari authenticates Reconstruction Authority Bill
- December 25 – Government appoints Sushil Gyawali as CEO of National Reconstruction Authority
- January 16 – NRA launches three month long mega campaign on post earthquake reconstruction
- March 13 – Housing grant distribution started from Dolakha, nearly 11 months after the earthquake
- August 15- NRA launched a month long campaign to distribute first tranche of the government aid to quake affected beneficiary households
- September 4 – Prime Minister announced increase in housing grant by Rs one lakh
- October 26 – Schools Reconstruction Guideline approved by NRA
- November 20 – NRA steering committee approves action plan prepared by NRA
- January 11 – Government sacks CEO Sushil Gyawali and appoints Govinda Raj Pokharel as CEO
- January 18 – NRA begins second tranche of the government aid for houses under construction
- April 3 – Grant distribution to quake affected families in lesser affected 17 districts begins