The fact that the beneficiaries of earthquake-affected private housing reconstruction signed agreements to reconstruct their houses at the same places where their previous houses fell down shows that they want to settle down in their own land. It appears that they expressed interest to continue staying in their own land giving importance to their art, culture, tradition and the way of living.
Dhruba Prasad Sharma
Almost 9,000 people lost their lives and more than 22,000 were injured when the massive earthquake struck central Nepal in April 2015. Almost 900,000 houses were completely or partially damaged, hundreds of heritage sites suffered damages while thousands of schools, health institutions and the government structures were damaged. The total loss from the earthquake was assessed to be about Rs. 650 billion. The number of displaced settlements was initially estimated to be 475, but later increased to 1,100 by the time the study concluded. The Post Disaster Recovery Framework (PDRF) has estimated the overall reconstruction cost to be about Rs. 938 billion.
Geologists were mobilized in the course of studying the vulnerable settlements. The reconstruction of private housing is going on in settlements of first category by providing them grants of Rs. 300,000 in three tranches, based on the report that those settlements were safe. The settlements in the second category were inhabitable after some maintenance works, so budget was allocated for maintenance work and the erstwhile Department of Soil Conservation and Watershed Management and Department of Water Induced Disaster Management were doing the maintenance work. Now that the departments have been merged, the works will continue under one management.
The settlements and households in the third category were defined as beneficiaries of the vulnerable settlements, and provision has been made to provide them a grant of up to Rs. 200,000 to purchase a plot in inhabitable land. There are about 4,700 families in this category and about 50 percent of them have already been managed. To manage the remaining beneficiaries, budget and authority has been given to the district offices to manage plots for the beneficiary families within the end of present fiscal year.
The NRA has been given to provide the government or degraded forest land to beneficiaries who could not arrange land on their own with Rs. 200,000 provided to them by the NRA; or the government should acquire land on their behalf and distribute it to them. Such authority has been used to develop construction plots in Bosimpa of Dolakha district and Laprak of Gorkha district, and such plots are in the process of distribution to the beneficiaries. Under such provision, beneficiaries in mountainous region will get plots of 10 aanas (~318 square meters) each, those in hilly regions will get plots of 6 aanas (~190 square meters) and those in the Kathmandu Valley will get plots of 4 aanas (~ 127 square meters) each.
The fact that the beneficiaries of earthquake-affected private housing reconstruction signed agreements to reconstruct their houses at the same places where their previous houses fell down shows that they want to settle down in their own land. It appears that they expressed interest to continue staying in their own land giving importance to their art, culture, tradition and the way of living. For those who wanted to move to new settlements voluntarily, the NRA has implemented a guideline on integrated settlement development since 2073 BS, and it has recently been approved it after revision. According to the guideline, ten or more families can come to the integrated settlement plan. The NRA has taken a policy to support the development of necessary infrastructures if the vulnerable beneficiaries, landless beneficiaries, beneficiaries who have been recently enlisted after grievance hearing, beneficiaries who have not taken their tranches, and beneficiaries who have taken their first tranches but have not started the house reconstruction - living in scattered places now - want to come and live in an integrated settlement. Under this scheme, 23 integrated settlements have been approved so far and the number is increasing.
An important part of the NRA’s private housing reconstruction agenda is the management of resettlement of the displaced families. The option given for the management of resettlement is another important aspect of the reconstruction. The NRA has taken a policy to give choices to the vulnerable groups on their management. This is a new practice in the history of reconstruction. Concluding the resettlement is not only a necessity of the day, but also its success will determine the completion of such important task within the designated time. The choice given to the categories and groups whose land is going to be managed and the policy taken to encourage them to live in colonies while purchasing new plots seem to have motivated the beneficiaries to do so. In such integrated settlement development, budget will be allocated for infrastructure development through the local governments. It will not be an exaggeration to say this will fulfill the spirit of the management plan of the displaced and the development of these integrated settlements.
Dhurba Prasad Sharma is a member of the Executive Committee of the National Reconstruction Authority