Chiran Magar builds a safer temporary shelter behind his damaged house in Chalnakhel, Kathmandu. Photo: Om Astha Rai
Om Astha Rai
Chiran Magar, a 29-year-old mechanic, spent over the last two weeks under a makeshift tent after the 25 April earthquake damaged his house.
“Life was hard under the tent,” says Chiran. “It used to be more difficult when it rained, my little children would fall sick under there.”
Early this week, Chiran’s family moved to a safer shelter house made of iron rods and corrugated sheets.
“It’s much better here,” he says. “We’re less worried about the rain.”
Chiran built the shelter house by using materials provided by Karuna Foundation, a Netherlands-based NGO, working in Nepal since 2007.
In Chalnakhel village, situated on the southern outskirts of Kathmandu Valley, Karuna Foundation has provided materials to build temporary shelters to 60 families. While 10 families are building temporary shelter houses like Chiran’s, others are using the corrugated sheets as roofs for their new houses.
The arch-shaped shelter house built by Chiran costs less than 100 USD (Rs 9,600). It requires just three pieces of iron rods and nine pieces of corrugated sheets, apart from nuts, bolts and iron wires.
“These shelters are safer and stronger than tents, yet cheap and easy-to-built,” says Chet Kumar Khatri, a civil engineer specialised in earthquake engineering. “If we have all the materials ready, we can build a shelter in less than an hour.”
Khatri is guiding people to build cheaper, safer and stronger shelters in Chalnakhel, where nearly 80 per cent houses have been damaged by the earthquake. He says: “These shelters can also be moved to different locations.”
More villagers are building safer temporary shelters in Chalnakhel, Kathmandu. Photo: Om Astha Rai
Karuna Foundation has received support from Dutch NGOs like Reach Out 2, Femi Foundation, Netherlands Leprosy Relief and Liciane Foundation to help build temporary shelters for more than 2,000 displaced families.
Karuna Foundation copied the model of arch-shaped shelter houses from Pakistan. After a devastating earthquake, thousands of Pakistan families had lived in similar arch-shaped shelters until they rebuilt their houses.
Deepak Raj Sapkota, country director of Karuna Foundation, says they came up with the idea of helping the displaced families to build safer and stronger shelters because of two reasons: delay in reconstruction and the fast-approaching monsoon.
“Monsoon is just around the corner and the displaced families are not able to reconstruct their damaged houses right away,” says Sapkota. “Living in safer shelters, they can plan and construct better and stronger houses.”
Speaking in the parliament last week, Prime Minister Sushil Koirala pledged a grant of Rs 200,000 for each displaced family for the reconstruction of their damaged house. He also pledged a soft loan of up to Rs 2.5 million for the displaced families in Kathmandu and Rs 1.5 million for other earthquake-affected districts.
But the process to distribute reconstruction grants and loans is likely to take some time and most of the displaced families will not be able to build their houses before or during the monsoon.
“Look at the people displaced by last year’s Jure landslide in Sindhupalchok, they’re still living in temporary camps,” says Sapkota. “There were fewer victims then, but the government still failed to rehabilitate them. This year’s earthquake is a much bigger disaster and rehabilitation of the displaced families will take a much longer time.”
He adds, “There is a dire need to help them build safer shelters as soon as possible until they can reconstruct their houses.”
In Chalnakhel, Chiran is planning to fortify his temporary shelter by using stones, bricks and cement on the floor. “I don’t know when the government will give us money to rebuild our houses,” he says. “Perhaps, we’ll have to live here for longer than we had previously thought.”
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