A new concept that Practical Action has promoted in its works is “demand aggregation” that helps people of remote hilly areas to access quality construction materials at affordable rates through their local cooperatives.
Nepal is among the highest risk and disaster-affected countries in the world. The past 10 years’ overview shows that Nepal is becoming more prone towards risk and is vulnerable towards several kinds of disasters, such as, floods, landslides and earthquake. According to Nepal Disaster Report 2015 prepared by the Government of Nepal/Ministry of Home Affairs and DPNet in 2015, an average of 329 people lost their lives annually due to various disasters, which has reached as high as 850 in the severe years.
The earthquake of April 2015 and the enormous aftershocks have been the biggest disaster of recent times. Although Practical Action is not a relief organization, we decided to work on relief and response immediately after the earthquake. Since then, we have been engaged in an effort to bring the affected communities to build back better. After the establishment of the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) and the Post-disaster Recovery Framework (PDRF) provided a broad guidance to reconstruction, we too decided to get engaged in some areas of reconstruction where we have the expertise.
Practical Action is working under the NRA guidance in supporting the rebuilding people’s houses by strengthening the supply chain of construction materials and imparting technical knowledge to them. The current work that started in Rasuwa and Nuwakot and further expanded in few other earthquake-affected districts is funded by the UKAid. Practical Action with its strong engagement on community-based Disaster Risk Reduction and systemsand market-led approach is applying the concept of Build Back Better (BBB) in its works. Some of the principles it has followed include: application of technology, use of local resources, promoting safer building and earthquake-resilient approach; addressing GESI and scaling up and scaling out of learning from good practices.
I too have visited the sites several times in both Rasuwa and Nuwakot since the inception of our work about two years ago. Some of the technologies introduced by the project such as stone cutting technology and wood treatment have provided affordable solutions and alternatives that will provide access to quality construction materials to build earthquake-resilient houses. We have applied innovative approaches such as demand aggregation of construction materials through cooperatives and micro enterprise of construction materials at the local level which have been very successful in substantially reducing the cost of house construction. The technology and approach have been overwhelmingly accepted by the local communities and local authority and are generating more interests in private business houses to scale up success business cases in the neighbouring districts. Our closer coordination and ties with the NRA and DFID have helped in making these works more noticed and have been instrumental in creating demands beyond our working districts.
Traditionally, people use stone masonry with mud mortar in villages. Such structures are vulnerable even in small earthquakes. Therefore, the challenge for us has been to offer affordable resilient house building technologies for recovery according to the designs launched by the NRA. Practical Action with support from Build Up Nepal has introduced Compressed Stabilised Earth Brick (CSEB) as an alternative construction material for rebuilding people’s houses. This technology is not only affordable, it is environment-friendly that uses local resources, generates livelihood opportunities for local people, promotes entrepreneurial potentials in the rural areas and helps building quake-resilient houses.
Likewise, the introduction of stone cutting machine has also offered opportunitiesand access to new technology for people to build resilient structures.The government of Nepal has now made the use of corner and through stones mandatory in stone houses. The use of machine cut corner and through stones for constructing houses is cost effective and time efficient and relatively a new concept in Nepal itself. Using dressed corner stones alone reduces vulnerability of a house towards shocks to a larger extent. It too is environment-friendly, uses local resources and promotes local employment opportunities.Similarly, identification and demonstration of smaller aggregate crushing machines have helped the locals access to construction aggregates that has the highest demand and supply gap, according to a study conducted by Practical Action.
We have also introduced chemical treatment facilities in saw mills and local timber workshops to provide access to treated timber. People often use local woods for building doors and windows and also supporting structures as beams and columns which has a very short life while very prone to termite attacks. Seasoning of local wood is time consuming and expensive. Hence, these facilities provide access to treated timber and wooden structures thatare stronger which have twice the life expectancy compared to regular timber.
Meanwhile, a new concept that Practical Action has promoted in its works is “demand aggregation”. This model helps people of remote hilly areas to access quality construction materials at affordable rates through their local cooperatives. Our collaboration with private sector and local cooperatives in demand aggregation aims to make the supply chain of construction materials more effective and efficient. This opens up easier and cheaper options for people who lack access to the market and market information. This concept has helped in accelerating the number of constructions and has opened up windows for replication in other severely affected districts too.
I would like to emphasise that Practical Action will not leave any stone unturned to ensure the most needy have access to simpler technology towards building resilient houses in line with the plan and designs that the NRA has set up. Practical Action is privileged to have got the trust of DFID and the NRA towards helping the earthquake-affected people to regain their confidence by building their houses and complementing towards the NRA’s reconstruction drive.
(Achyut Luitel is the Regional Director of Practical Action South Asia)