With about 50 percent of private houses on the verge of completing the construction, we can confidently say that the completion of reconstructing the private houses, the main priority of NRA, is set to meet the set target.
By Yuba Raj Bhusal
Chief Executive Officer
It has been 28 months since the government of Nepal established National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) for the reconstruction and rehabilitation after the April 2015 earthquake. The massive earthquakes on April 25 and May 12 in 2015 not only killed 8,790 people and injured more than 22,000 people, but they also devastated hundreds of schools, health institutions, other government buildings and cultural monuments, leaving the government with a huge task of rebuilding. The government then established NRA on December 25 and it assumed its responsibilities from December 27, 2015.
Despite the establishment of NRA, the reconstruction process went through a difficult phase due to unavoidable circumstances and could not gear up the pace of reconstruction. However, as the formative and normative phases of NRA have now come to an end, the actual reconstruction process has begun to take off.
As per the latest figures, more than 113,567 earthquake-resistant private houses have been rebuilt while approximately 383,799 houses are currently under construction. With about 50 percent of private houses on the verge of completing the construction, we can confidently say that the completion of reconstructing the private houses, the main priority of NRA, is set to meet the set target.
There has also been significant progress in the reconstruction of educational institutions. About 52 percent of school buildings have already been completed while the rest are under construction. The reconstruction of cultural monuments, health institutions and other government buildings is also taking pace.
When I assumed office on October 24, 2017, I had said I would expedite reconstruction works to wipe off the tears of the brothers and sisters living in temporary unsafe huts. I had vouched to complete the reconstruction of about 60 percent of the private houses before the coming monsoon which we are set to achieve.
Following are the highlights of the works in the last five months since I assumed the office:
- A 28-point commitment paper was issued on November 3, 2017 after a four-party interaction among ad hoc committee representatives of Federation of Rural Municipalities and Federation of Municipalities, the umbrella organizations of the local governments, Government of Nepal line ministries and the banking sector. Reconstruction work has been expedited with a road map and other instruments as per the commitment paper with an objective to complete about 60 percent (about 460,000 houses) of the reconstruction of private housing by the end of current fiscal year (mid-July 2018) or before the onset of monsoon rains as far as possible.
- Eight district offices of NRA have been established to serve the 18 moderately affected districts, in addition to the 14 severely affected districts. Those offices are working in coordination and collaboration with elected representatives of the local levels. I visited Lamjung district and inaugurated the office there on December 27, 2017. Distribution of the second installment has begun in the moderately affected 18 districts. Focus has been given on expediting the overall reconstruction process in these districts.
1) Management of Technical Personnel
- Technical personnel have been deployed under the local governments since November/December as per the demand of the elected representatives. The contracts of technicians not reporting to the deployed locations have been terminated and replaced by those in the waiting list.
- In order to rationalize remote allowance for technical personnel, the duty station has been categorized into five groups to make it more scientific and it has been executed after the endorsement of the Cabinet.
- A system to provide salary in the first week of every month has been ensured.
- At least one District Support Engineer (DSE) has been arranged for every district.
These efforts have provided momentum to the reconstruction works earlier stalled due to lack of technicians. As a result, the number of private houses receiving NRA support has now gone up to about 497,366 mark (113,567 completed and 383,799 under construction).
2) Supply of Construction Workers
- Masonry training has been conducted in all 282 local levels of 32 earthquake affected districts to add to the pool of about 56,000 trained masons in order to avoid the lack of skilled workers and laborers at the local level and as per the commitment made in the above-mentioned commitment paper. The trainings started in December/January 2017/18, and by the end of mid-March, 41,000 more trained masons are expected to enter the pool of trained masons.
- The training was provided to masons doing the similar work in a traditional manner and who has not received such training before.
- The budget of the training was stipulated so as not to exceed a cost of Rs. 20,000 per trainee, of which Rs. 700 was provided as daily wage allowance per day, Rs. 150 was provided for food and Rs. 100 for commuting to and fro. Tools worth Rs. 1,600 were also provided to every trainee for free.
- The trained masons will be provided a certificate of achievement signed by the chief of local government (urban or rural municipality), representative of the training providing agency and a representative of NRA to ensure their qualifications.
3) Supply of Construction Materials
- The local governments have taken up the responsibility to provide boulders, gravel and sand free of cost to the earthquake affected beneficiaries. Where, the collection and supply of such material has been contracted to a private party, the local governments have agreed to provide such materials at a subsidized rate. And where such materials are not available in a rural or urban municipality area, they will coordinate with the neighboring local levels to supply the construction materials at a reasonable price.
- The local levels have committed to and are providing housing designs and permit within a week of application waving the fee.
- The impediment in approving the house design in the name of land occupied by road or river has been removed as it falls under the authority of the local level to decide the right of way of roads.
- Coordination has been established with all District Forest Offices and Timber Corporation of Nepal through the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation and the Department of Forests to ensure the smooth supply of timber required to build private houses.
- An interaction program was organized requesting suppliers to improve access, and distribution and affordability of construction materials being supplied from the private sector such as cement, rods as it was observed that the price of such supplies were suddenly hiked and and there were problems in supply and distribution. The Ministry of Home Affairs was also notified about the same.
4) House Construction of Vulnerable Beneficiaries
- Construction of houses of some vulnerable beneficiaries has become a humanitarian challenge. NRA has defined such people (elderly people above 70 years of age, helpless single women above 65 years of age, people with disabilities with red and blue identity cards including the blind and minors less than 16 years of age), collected details of their housing condition through local governments and developed and executed a guideline for alternative provision for their housing construction, that totals around 24,000.
5) Subsidized loan
- According to a government policy, banks and financial institutions should have issued interest-free credit of Rs. 300,000 and credit of up to Rs. 2.5 million in the Kathmandu Valley and credit of up to Rs. 1.5 million outside the Kathmandu Valley at a subsidized interest rate. However, such credit was not being issued satisfactorily. So, relevant organizations were called for dialogue and the problem is being solved soon, as the banks have shown readiness to issue such credit.
- Initiatives have been taken to provide credit of up to Rs. 2.5 million or Rs. 1.5 million at the interest rate of 2% per annum for tenure of 5 to 10 years from various banking institutions. The process and progress is underway. Hassles, if any, are being attempted to be cleared through a series of participatory meetings held in NRA.
6) Relocation of vulnerable settlements
- The process of relocating vulnerable settlements located at various earthquake-prone areas as identified by geological survey to safer locations as per the wish of the affected and the availability of land has been expedited. 24 families of Urleni of Nuwakot have already been resettled under this process. Similarly, 72 families of Rasuwa and 18 families of Sindhupalchowk have also been relocated. Total of 388 houses have already received Rs 200,000 of GoN Private Housing Grant in Sindhupalchowk, Dolakha, Rasuwa, Nuwakot, Dhading, Ramechhap and Chitwan for resettlement. This is an on-going process and NRA encourages earthquake affected people living in vulnerable areas to relocate in safer places.
7) Timeline for government grant
- Although the Steering Committee meeting on July 12, 2017 had decided to receive recommendations for second installment by mid-January 2018, many earthquake affected people had not been able to apply for the second installment by that deadline for various reasons. So, the Steering Committee on February has set mid-April 2018 as the new deadline to acquire the second instalment.
9) Reconstruction efforts of other heritage
- NRA has decided to build Dharahara itself and efforts are on to lay its foundation within this fiscal year.
- Reconstruction of Ranipokhari and Kasthamandap will be taken ahead in a coordinated way by addressing the sentiments of all the concerned stakeholders.
- Reconstruction of Durbar High School is going on in a coordinated way. Concerned stakeholders have been consulted and instructed to carry out the construction of this school by retaining the traditional architecture of the facade.
- The Kathmandu Metropolitan Office and the Archaeology Department have been instructed to be present with a report on Bagdurbar Reconstruction, and an appropriate decision will be taken on this soon.
10) Miscellaneous Provisions
- A tripartite agreement has been signed on mobilizing the Indian grant assistance of USD 250 million which has been decided to be utilized for the reconstruction of 26,912 private houses in Gorkha and 23,088 private houses in Nuwakot districts.
- Statistics of over 130,000 households have been collected for re-evaluating and re-surveying earthquake affected in various districts, and the collected data is being analyzed to identify the genuine earthquake affected people.
- Regular dialogues are continuing with development partners to further expedite the reconstruction process and collaboration with them is going on.
- The executive committee members have been given responsibility of monitoring and facilitation of the overall reconstruction works in 32 earthquake affected districts. I myself have been going for monitoring visits.
11) New Provisions on District Level Coordination
- District Reconstruction Facilitation Committees led by the Chief of District Coordination Committees in each district and comprising Chief District Officer, District Coordination Officer, District Forest Officer, Land Registration Officer, Land Survey Officer, Chiefs of District Project Implementation Units (Urban Development Ministry, Local Development Ministry), Chief of Trust and Accounts Controller Office and Chiefs of Banks, have been formed to expedite the reconstruction of structures affected by earthquake and to coordinate and facilitate the NRA's activities in earthquake affected areas, and the committee so formed has been facilitating and coordinating at the district level.
12) Implementation of PMIS
* NRA has launched Project Monitoring Information System (PMIS) to make the reconstruction activities more transparent and effective. The PMIS is web-based application software designed to establish a comprehensive database of reconstruction programs and to monitor their implementation. PMIS enables central monitoring of all reconstruction related activities at the local level. Project managers can now have real time interaction with resident engineers and field level officers working in all earthquake-affected districts and provide a quick response when required. PMIS will provide near-real time information on activities related to post-earthquake reconstruction and recovery, information on the budget of those activities and their progress status. It also facilitates the monitoring of reconstruction activities at sites located in diverse geography with difficult access through data storage in mobile apps.
13) More working procedures formulated and approved
* The NRA Executive Committee has approved the Integrated Settlement Development Working Procedure 2074 prepared to ensure facilitation of development of integrated settlements in the earthquake-affected communities.
* People from 1,200 families living in 13 vulnerable areas have been included in the list of beneficiaries.
* As per the Private Housing Reconstruction Grant Distribution Working Procedure 2074, the beneficiaries have been provided Rs. 200,000 and additional Rs. 50,000 has been committed by the non-governmental organizations as per the Working Procedure of Mobilizing the Non-governmental Organizations 2074, making the overall grant of Rs. 250,000. With the government’s latest decision, NRA has requested the organizations who have signed tripartite agreement to provide additional Rs. 100,000 to the beneficiaries and decided that NRA would provide the grant from its budget if those organizations could not meet the provision.
* NRA has welcomed the return of first installment of Rs. 50,000 by some of those who had received the grant as the beneficiaries but are not entitled to obtain the amount due to availability of other options with them, and has appealed to others to follow suit.
14) Post-flood Reconstruction Program
- The responsibility of reconstruction of infrastructure and houses damaged by the floods in Terai districts in August/September 2017 has been given to NRA. The Flood Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Program has been established under NRA to carry out necessary studies for reconstruction, development policy provisions and to coordinate the reconstruction. Field studies are going on.
- Altogether 41,626 households affected by floods in Terai districts this year have been provided Rs. 15,000 as immediate relief and an additional Rs. 10,000 per household to buy warm clothes for the last winter. The Home Ministry has been provided with Rs. 1.6 billion for the distribution of the relief package.
- In the context of reconstruction in the Kathmandu Valley, interactions were held between heads and deputy heads of 11 local levels along with head and deputy head of District Coordination Committee of Kathmandu on January 29, 2018 and solutions to various problems were sought.
13) Challenges and Solution
- Despite all these efforts, many earthquake affected people have not been able to build their houses yet. The construction of historical monuments and heritage is another major challenge as it is a difficult process. And work on reconstruction of schools and health institutions and drinking water also need to be expedited further in the days ahead. Efforts are on to find their root causes and to find their solution as well.
- Realizing all these aspects, support of all sections including government agencies, private sector, national and international donor agencies and non-governmental organizations, media, and professionals is critical as the solo-effort of NRA is not enough for timely completion of this mega reconstruction campaign. Your support has provided us more enthusiasm and motivation in the reconstruction campaign.