Reconstruction progress

Poor show

Published On: January 18, 2018 01:00 AM NPT By: David Kainee

NRA presented rosy picture of reconstruction on its second anniversary but the truth is it has failed to deliver. 

More than 32 months after Nepal was struck by 7.6 magnitude earthquakes that killed nearly 9000 people and destroyed around half a million houses, the victims are still languishing under the makeshift tents shivering with biting cold. This is disheartening. 

National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) which was formed with much fanfare to carry out reconstruction works at war footing level completed its two years last month. It has little to show for performance. Instead of coming up with impressive performance record, as many would have expected, NRA informed during its second-anniversary celebration that only 11 percent of the private houses have been reconstructed. What a record!
Total of 79,514 private houses have been rebuilt and 194,196 homes are under construction. NRA calls this combined progress of 40 percent. 

The housing aid which was promised in three installments—Rs.50,000 in first, Rs.150,000 in second and Rs.100,000 in final—in the last two years. Total of 98 percent (664,644) families has received first installment. Merely 17 percent (115,192) families have received second installment and hardly 26,454 have got third installment. 

The NRA along with the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) had surveyed a total of 996,582 households in 31 districts following the disaster. Total of 767,705 households was identified as eligible recipients for housing reconstruction aid whereas 676,849 households actually had signed for the housing aid. 

In 767,705 households, identified as eligible for grants for reconstruction, barely 79,514 households have been reconstructed two years after NRA was established. This shows inefficiency of reconstruction body. 

Apart from private house reconstruction, NRA’s performance in reconstruction of health centers and educational institutions is dismal. 

Until now NRA has completed construction of 257 health centers out of targeted 1,197. Only 2,741 educational institutions, out of targeted 7,553, have been completed so far. 
NRA presented rosy picture of reconstruction on its second-anniversary celebration. But the truth remains that it has failed to deliver satisfactorily.

Why it failed  

National Reconstruction Authority (NRA), which was established with high hope and much fanfare, couldn’t live up to its expectations because it could not kick-start reconstruction in earnest due to excessive political interference.

Who to appoint as chief executive officer (CEO) of NRA remained major bone of contention among the political parties. Sushil Koirala led government appointed Govinda Raj Pokahrel its CEO but he could not lead reconstruction process efficiently. 

When K P Oli succeeded Koirala, the parliament stalled passing reconstruction ordinance under one or other pretext. The motive was to replace Pokharel with Sushil Gyawali, a little-known figure with no experience in running large administrative structure.  

Again Pushpa Kamal Dahal led coalition government with Nepali Congress asked unnecessary clarification to Sushil Gyawali just to sack him from his post and reinstated Govinda Pokharel. Pokharel resigned from NRA to contest in recently held parliamentary elections from Pyuthan. Yubaraj Bhusal is fourth CEO within two years. 

It is a pity that the reconstruction process has been held hostage to partisan politics. Bickering between major political parties over the formation of National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) and the appointment of its chief executive officer was the main reason reconstruction drive has been functioning, if at all, at snail’s pace. 

The NRA has had slew of issues to deal with in regard to the shortage of reconstruction materials that resulted from the unofficial Indian blockade. Obviously, Indian blockade slowed down reconstruction and rehabilitation of earthquake victims a little, due to lack of construction materials in the market but situation was made worse largely because of absence of elected bodies at local levels. Without them, it was difficult to coordinate the work of relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction.

Just one village secretary was assigned to work at more than one VDC. Adding hurdle to the reconstruction pace, some VDC secretary, even, refused to work unless they were paid adequate perks and facilities. 

Now is the time

With elected bodies in place, we have an opportunity to ensure participation of local people and local government in reconstruction process. Newly elected local representatives are also excited to work with NRA. But NRA has done nothing so far towards changing reconstruction policy to work with local officials and speed up reconstruction drive.

NRA should simplify the process that the quake survivors have to fulfill for reconstruction and to get the reconstruction grants. Currently, the process is lengthy and people have to wait for months to get the grant money

CPN-UML and Maoist Center are expected to form a stable government very soon. The new government must not spare any effort in speeding reconstruction works. The earthquake victims who are waiting to rebuild safer homes since April 2015, cannot wait for any more.

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