January 16, 2016
photo: Deepak Adikhari
Today, finally, Nepal formally commenced the reconstruction process, nearly nine months after the massive earthquake on April 25 last year.
President Bidya Devi Bhandari and Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli inaugurated the much-delayed reconstruction in separate functions held in the Nepalese Capital Kathmandu on Saturday.
Government officials said that they will reconstruct about 1 million homes and buildings damaged by the massive earthquake and will also start collecting billions of aid pledged by the foreign donors during the International Conference on Nepal's Reconstruction held on June 8.
Foreign donor agencies and countries have pledged 4.1 billion U.S. dollars in aid to help Nepal rebuild after the earthquake.
Why the long delay? Political infighting
It took eight months for Nepal’s bickering political parties to approve a reconstruction bill. That was the first step.
Then, last month, the government appointed civil engineer Sushil Gyewali as CEO of Nepal’s National Reconstruction Authority (NRA).
The NRA is entrusted to handle the rebuilding of collapsed houses, office buildings, schools, hospitals and roads, and will be empowered to bypass spending rules to get the work done more quickly.
This week, Gyewali told the media that actual reconstruction work would begin in another three months to coincide with the quake’s first anniversary. In the meantime, the NRA is now preparing to deploy personnel to the 14 districts hardest-hit by the quakes.
"1,600 engineers will train technicians to build safer houses and coordinate between the government offices," Gyawali said.
But first proper identification of actual victims needs to be gathered. Apparently, astoundingly, this process has not yet been accomplished.
Gyewali added: "So the [reconstruction] authority needs to carry out detailed damage assessments and identify genuine victims, and this may take around three months."
The earthquake and ensuing aftershocks claimed nearly 9,000 lives.
Hundreds of thousands of people are still homeless in the harsh winter weather in Nepal's remote villages hit by the earthquake. For them, the next three months will be long ones. They are hopeful but, given the government’s deplorable track record, they are not holding their breath.