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Reconstruction in ruins 

Monday, October 5th, 2015
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reconstruction online

In Barpak village of Gorkha, the epicentre of the 25 April earthquake, the locals have started rebuilding their homes on their own. Photo: Bikram Rai

Om Astha Rai and Sahina Shrestha

Nearly six months after a deadly earthquake, political aftershocks have prevented the 3 million affected people from receiving through the government the $4.1 billion pledged by the international community for rebuilding their homes.

The government formed the National Reconstruction Authority two months after the 25 April earthquake, and then on 13 August appointed Govinda Raj Pokhrel as its CEO. But parliament failed to ratify the ordinance to set it up, so Pokhrel is heading an organization that doesn’t formally exist.

“I was off to a flying start,” says Pokhrel. “We had collected a strong ream and policies were being formulated. So it was a complete shock when I found out that the Reconstruction Authority was no longer a legal government entity.”

Most agree that Pokhrel, who headed the National Planning Commission, was the right man for the job. He had shown to be an efficient manager who had prepared the International Conference on Nepal’s Reconstruction two months after the earthquake and finished a Post Disaster Need Assessment (PDNA) report in time for it.

But before Pokhrel set up his new office and hired staff to begin reconstruction works, the ordinance through which the authority was formed expired without being replaced by a bill. And the new bill through which the authority could have been legally institutionalised is unlikely to be passed by parliament any time soon because the UML doesn’t like Pokhrel, who is seen as an NC appointee.

To be sure, the main opposition UCPN (M) had also delayed the parliament proceedings on ratification citing provisions in the bill. But now it is the UML that is putting a spanner in the works. Parliament has forwarded the bill to its legislation committee, which will cut down the number of amendment proposals and send it back to the full house.

UML legislators say the present draft of the bill is ‘very weak’ and will not be strong enough to rebuild earthquake-hit areas. Most importantly, they have sought a political person as the authority’s executive chief and involvement of legislators from the earthquake-affected districts.

“You cannot rebuild the country with an authority that ignores the role of elected representatives of people,” says UML legislator Sher Bahadur Tamang from the worst-affected district of Sindhupalchok. “A technocrat cannot lead a reconstruction authority, we want a political leadership.”

But the UML’s real intention seems to have its own man at the helm of the well-endowed authority so that it can have full say in disbursing the reconstruction budget, and get credit for it. Prime Minister Sushil Koirala had held out for Pokhrel and got the UML’s KP Oli to agree. Oli had even promised Pokhrel “full support” before his appointment, but now that Oli is designated as the next PM, he seems to have changed his mind.

Pokhrel did not wait for the Authority to be formed and had started preparing post-earthquake housing modalities, administrative and financial guidelines and donor coordination mechanism. Pokhrel had even initiated a process to bring on deputation the Finance Ministry’s Infrastructure Section Chief Bhisma Bhusal and the Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC)’s Heritage Division Head Sirju Pradhan. He was also trying to get on board Swarnim Wagle from the NPC as a focal person to coordinate with donors.

The reconstruction ordinance was issued by President Ram Baran Yadav on 30 June, and it was to be replaced by a bill by 29 August. But after the bill was tabled in the parliament on 23 July, the Speaker Subhas Nembang called the next parliamentary meeting only on 1 September.

In the meantime, the government got busy in drafting the constitution, and the Tarai was embroiled in violence. Ministers from the NC were carelessly unaware of the cut-off date of 29 August for passing the reconstruction bill. They now allege that Nembang cunningly called the next parliamentary meeting only after the cut-off date and the parliamentary secretariat, dominated by pro-UML bureaucrats, did not bother to alert the government.

The UML and the UCPN (M) were in no hurry to approve the bill and let it lapse. NC leader and Law Minister Narhari Acharya says, “We initially thought the UCPN (M) was trying to block the reconstruction bill, but we later faced real obstacles from our own coalition partner, the UML.”

He adds: “Some of the points of amendment registered by UML legislators are duplicated and even nonsensical, and their real motive seems to delay the reconstruction authority until the next government is formed.”

Some donors who pledged money for Nepal’s reconstruction are now thinking of channeling their money through local groups and NGOs – some of them run by UML leaders involved in filibustering the bill.

Says Pokhrel: “The delay in the bill has already affected survivors, and they must get monehy for reconsturtion before winter sets in.”

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4 Responses to “Reconstruction in ruins ”

  1. namah on Says:

    does Nepal deserve the aid it gets? sometimes I wonder…

  2. Prem Suwal on Says:

    I hope these sick politicians receive curses from the victims of the earthquake.

  3. Hurray on Says:

    People need to move their butt, like they say, and try to rebuild by themselves. Always waiting on aid and someone else to do it for us has made us useless and hopeless.
    We are ready to go build buildings in gulf but can’t move a brick in our own country?

  4. Tirtha Gurung on Says:

    Nepal will not be able brace up, unless the hilly people ( Arya Jaati) who claims they are the only people who deserved to be in the key positions and keep ruling Nepal do not change their truly Appoling attitude with uncivilised behaviour

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