The work is currently underway to build 30 integrated settlements in Sindhupalchowk, one of the most affected districts in the April 2015 earthquake. Out of these, the government is providing support to build 22 settlements while five settlements are receiving financial and technical support from Oxfam Nepal and Janahit Gramin Sewa Samiti.
An integrated settlement has already been rebuilt in Giranchaur with support from Dhurmush Suntali Foundation. Another one is being supported by WOREC and the other by Abhimansingh Foundation.
As per the latest available data, 23 integrated settlements are currently under -construction, according to Santosh Niraula, Chief of the NRA's District Level Project Implementation Unit (Grants Management and Local Infrastructure). Four are in the process of construction and three settlements have been completed.
All these integrated settlements in Sindhupalchowk can be spotted from far away and look beautiful. All the houses of similar design, size and color make these settlements attractive.
The locals have already shifted in some of these integrated settlements while some others are looking forward to moving in within a few months.
Government plan for integrated settlement
As part of reconstructing private housing, the NRA has not only planned to construct the houses in their original place, but has also taken the initiative to develop integrated settlements for those who had been living in vulnerable areas before the earthquake.
Besides providing Rs. 300,000 in private housing reconstruction grant, the government is also providing assistance in developing physical infrastructure in these settlements. For this, the NRA has deputed 3,000 technicians to provide necessary technical assistance.
The government also provides additional Rs. 50,000 for constructing these houses by preserving traditional designs.
The government has the policy of providing Rs. 200,000 for each household who are landless and are living in vulnerable areas to build a house in an integrated settlement.
It also provides Rs. 500,000, Rs. 400,000 and Rs. 300,000 respectively to each beneficiary in the mountainous region, hilly region and Tarai respectively to build physical infrastructures if they are to live in an integrated settlement. Similarly, the government provides Rs. 50,000 for each beneficiary of vulnerable areas and for those living in the heritage settlement.
Three options have been highlighted in the Integrated Settlement Procedure 2018– If it is found that the settlement cannot be constructed in the original place; some may be maintained at the local level only by taking the families supposed to be transferred elsewhere; and if the individual households wish so, integrated settlement can be developed for scattered households.
As per the provision, there should be at least 10 houses for the development of integrated settlement. It also mentions that an integrated settlement of 10 to 99 houses will be implemented by the District Level Project Implementation Unit while the remaining will be implemented by the entity assigned by the NRA.
The basis of constructing an integrated settlement has been set as only for the settlement of vulnerable areas, landless, maintained by addressing grievances, in the instance of private housing reconstruction that has not started despite the agreement and in instance if there are quake victims who have not been entered into an agreement with.
As per the available data, there has been 43 integrated settlements built throughout the nation and the aim is to have 75 by this year. As per the NRA, about 600 are yet to be addressed out of the approximately 5,000 beneficiaries who are vulnerable.
Beneficiaries have problems too
Anyone gets envious seeing the capability of the local communities who have been working around the clock to development integrated settlements. There has been encouraging progress in building these integrated settlements. If the same task had been contracted out, it would not have been even half the current progress.
But not everything is right in these settlements, as the houses in many of these settlements are too small to accommodate the needs of the local communities. Some families even have to accommodate 10-12 people within the two-room house. There is a problem storing agricultural products, as the majority of them depend on agriculture.
Another problem is the location of these settlements. People in many of these settlements have to go too far to work. They have been resurrecting the houses by taking the burden of the loan. They have to pay the debt by earning from their daily wages.
For example, some of the houses in the settlements in Thakle and Selang of Sindhupalchowk are in vulnerable conditions due to the fear of landslides, but they do not have enough resources to build retaining walls.
Executive Member of the NRA Dhruba Sharma said that since the government has set the minimal standards, it is not the government ’s fault that the houses have been built small.
As the beneficiaries also need to invest, Sharma said that the government has not prohibited them from building big houses as per their requirements. It is the weakness of the government to think that the quake victims are capable of making plans this way, but he accepts that there are some problems.
Several houses are still incomplete in the settlements, as they do not have enough money. Chet Bahadur Tamang of Thakle Integrated Settlement of Melamchi Municipality-2 stated that the assistance provided by the government was not enough. For example, the residents in Thakle settlement do not have resources to build a community building. And, Norbuling settlement too, the locals have not been able to complete the houses due to financial constraints.
There have also been problems due to lack of proper planning on the government part, as the government was in a hurry to rebuild the houses damaged in the earthquake on time. For example, 573 houses being built in Laprak of Gorkha with the assistance from the Non-Resident Nepalese Association did not have toilets. After the intervention from the NRA, the toilets are currently being constructed. There is lack of proper sewage system in this integrated settlement.
The NRNA had been trying to hand it over to the locals without making the infrastructures, said Sharma. “But, we asked the organization to complete the work related to infrastructure as well.”
Nepal ’s integrated settlement is exemplary model
Despite few problems, the overall progress in developing integrated settlements after the April 2015 earthquake has been encouraging. NRA Executive Member Dhruba Sharma said that the integrated settlement has become a model worth learning for the international community. He stated that the representatives from several countries have liked this model. The ones who want to learn come here too.
In Pakistan, for example, people did not live in a settlement built in a village through the government assistance. The reason was their house not being in a convenient location for their land. Based on that experience, the government has developed the settlement in the area chosen by them near to their land so that there is the participation of the beneficiaries too. The NRA had conducted a study on the status of those who had reached the district headquarters after being displaced during the phase of making the settlement. After getting the reaction from the displaced wanting to go to the old place if they got some assistance, the concept of integrated settlement had been started.
If they had not lived in the houses that were built in the location where they had moved to after being displaced, the government would have been unsuccessful, Pakistan was an example of this, according to Sharma. "That ’s why after we told them we will provide Rs. 200,000 to buy land and Rs. 300,000 to build a house, those who were living under a tent during the previous rainy season were not seen living under the tent in the last rainy season.”
With inputs from Narayan Dhungana of Rastriya Samachar Samiti