Nepal is rising with collective efforts and collaboration from all. But still, reconstruction and rehabilitation should be expedited by management of internal financial resources, and by acquiring donations pledged by the development partners and executing effectively.
Nepal is considered a vulnerable country in terms of earthquake risk because of its geographical location and its geological situation. In fact, Nepal is vulnerable not only to earthquake but also to other multiple types of disasters. Various studies have shown that Nepal is the 11th most vulnerable in terms of earthquake risk, 30th in terms of water induced disaster risk, and fourth in terms of climate change vulnerability, in the world.
The country had to bear a huge loss of life and property from the mega-earthquake on April 25, 2015 and the subsequent aftershocks. In this emergency situation, the crisis was managed by carrying out rescue and relief operations and other humanitarian efforts with generous support from inside and outside the country. Experts in this sector say, Nepal’s disaster management capacity was seen to be weak in the fronts of risk mitigation and preparedness, but was found to be strong in post-disaster reconstruction and rehabilitation. In this context, although some confusion was seen in rescue, relief and humanitarian effort in the beginning, gradually its management was done effectively with support from all sections. Moreover, the country has gained a huge learning as an asset in this area.
After the initial coping and management of the crisis, Nepal government established the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) on December 27, 2015 to play the leading role in reconstruction and rehabilitation works of damages done by the earthquake. In the initial years, the reconstruction work did not speed up as more time was spent on developing policies, legal framework and necessary procedures, directives and guidelines; but now and the coming years will be the actual implementation years. This has been proved by the 77 percent progress made in the private housing reconstruction and the progress in other areas of reconstruction. Yet, the reconstruction is still not without challenges.
The reconstruction and rehabilitation and more new construction after the earthquake in itself are a challenge to the country. In this, in addition to other things, collecting the necessary resources for reconstruction became a major responsibility for the country. An international donors’ conference was organized at the initiation of the government to collect necessary resources for reconstruction. The donors’ conference resulted in the pledge of supporting Rs. 410 billion from various friendly nations and development partners. In the donors’ conference, our neighboring friendly nation India pledged the maximum amount, worth Rs. 100 billion, of which Rs. 25 billion was pledged as a grant and Rs. 75 billion was pledged as an interest-subsidized loan. There has been an agreement to spend the Indian grant in private housing reconstruction, heritage sites, and health and education sector.
Likewise, another neighboring country China had pledged a support of Rs. 77 billion. The remaining pledge was from various other friendly nations, donor agencies and development partners. Of the total pledged amount, Rs. 670 million was spent in relief and rescue, and out of the remaining Rs. 343 billion, aid agreements have been signed for Rs. 262 billion so far.
Looking at the size of the pledge and the signed amount, it appeared that only a small amount needs to be spent from the Nepal government’s regular budget in this sector. But, things did not turn out as expected. The mobilization, utilization and receipt of the support amount were not as pledged and expected. As a result, there is a gap between the available and the necessary amount of resources.
The Post Disaster Recovery Framework (PDRF) report prepared on the basis of post-disaster needs assessment estimates that Rs. 938 billion will be required to complete the reconstruction and rehabilitation works.
Necessary homework to assess the works concluded in the past three years and the amount spent on it, and the determination of tasks remaining to be completed now and the amount required to complete them is at the final stage, and the actual estimates of the amount required now to complete the remaining reconstruction and rehabilitation work is likely to be clear after that. The analysis done so far has indicated that the actual amount that will be required will be slightly less than the amount estimated by the PDRF.
Rs. 186 billion has been spent on reconstruction and rehabilitation related works through the NRA after its establishment, and a budget of Rs. 151 billion has been allocated for the running fiscal year 2018/19. The largest chunk of the spent amount has been on private housing reconstruction.
Of the spent amount, so far Rs. 67 billion has been received as foreign aid in various forms, according to statistics. Such aid is focused on social technical aid in private housing reconstruction, and school reconstruction, among others, in the earthquake affected districts.
Looking at it sector-wise, development partners have been supporting in socio-economic rehabilitation including private housing reconstruction, education, health, heritage sites and physical infrastructure.
Likewise, looking at the participation, friendly countries including India, China, Japan, Norway, and USA have contributed, while donor agencies such as the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the European Union, among others, have been supporting.
This way, the country devastated by the earthquake is rising with collective efforts and collaboration from all. But still, reconstruction and rehabilitation should be expedited by management of internal financial resources, and by acquiring donations pledged by the development partners and executing effectively. Likewise, there is a necessity of working even harder to address issues of terms that come with the aid, procurement process, drawing, design, consultant appointment, and reimbursement on time of projects/plans, monitoring and evaluation and reports. Moving ahead by taking necessary initiatives within its jurisdiction and rights is the need of the day for the NRA.
Pitambhar Ghimire is Joint Secretary and Spokesperson of the National Reconstruction Authority