Reconstruction Campaign Better late than never (Commentary)

President Bidhya Devi Bhandari inaugurating the national reconstruction campaign. The government formally started the reconstruction campaign to reconstruct the infrastructures destroyed by April earthquake. 

President Bidhya Devi Bhandari inaugurating the national reconstruction campaign.

By Mahendra Subedi / Kathmandu: The government on Saturday formally initiated the reconstruction jobs for the renovation of the physical properties that were severely hit by the April 25 Gorkha Earthquake and its subsequent aftershocks mainly the fatal ones dated April 26 and May 12, coinciding with the 1990 BS’s deadliest quake in Nepal’s modern history.

Marking of the kick-start of the reconstruction campaign nearly eight and a half months after the disaster jolted central Nepal and caused inconceivable loss of human lives and properties has spread a little ray of hope to the affected communities and even to the donors and international communities that were awaiting government’s steps ahead to dole out assistance to initiate the revival works in the quake-ravaged areas.

The government was supposed to carry out the reconstruction and rejuvenation works of property, infrastructures and the cultural heritages immediately after the end of rainy season but delayed in the constitution of the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) and key appointments in the apex body due to political wrangling pushed the topmost priority of the entire nation further back.

But despite political and other snags linked to the formation of the NRA and other mechanisms, the construction campaign has started with the commitment to bring the situation back by ensuring the construction of the quake-resistant infrastructures and relieve the sufferings of the people affected by the disaster.
Speaking at the function organised to mark the beginning of the mega project, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli urged all political parties, government and non-government bodies to work together in this mega campaign of reconstruction. “This campaign begins with a commitment from all political parties and organisations to work together for it, and is a matter of great happiness.”
Challenges ahead

Given the mega scale of the programmes requiring a huge amount of money and skilled, semi-skilled human resources, resource management is sure to be a key challenge that the NRA would confront during the post-quake construction campaign.

Over politicization in the development and politicians’ greed for resources and coordination among the government bodies from the NRA though its holds the entire command and control of the construction works seems colossal challenge that the Authority and its CEO, Sushil Gyawali, would witness. “Preparing and deploying the needed human resource, supervision of the construction works and establishing coordination among all stakeholders is the serious challenge to face,” Former Chief Secretary of government Leela Mani Paudyal points out.

Paudyal went on to say that a mechanism should also be formed to punish those taking dual benefits from the state in the name of quake-victims.

Similarly, lack of people’s representatives at the local level as well crunch of technology and experts in the field would be equally challenging to expedite the quake-hit construction works.

Sluggish bureaucracy and corruption followed by absence of good governance are the some of the major perennial challenges we have been going through and the same would reappear in the case of the reconstruction phase.

Top leaders while commencing the mega campaign on January 16 made commitments to end corruption and assurance of transparency and honesty in the implementation of the campaign to evade any untoward cases of irregularities in its operation but the implementation of their verbal vows is awaited in the real ground. The total costs for the reconstruction project is estimated Rs 669 billion by the PDNA while the donors and neighbouring countries have promised to provide Rs 440 billion in grants and loans and its fair and justifiable expenditure is the concern of all including that of donors.

“There must be a common procedure for receiving money and channelize the fund even by taking the donors into confidence,” Paudyal suggests adding that the donors should be included in monitoring and policy making steps but their participation in the grassroots levels should be cutoff.
Priorities of the NRA

Even after the long period of the deadly quakes, a large chunk of population in the 14 most-hit districts is still going through the harshest life for lack of proper food and settlement in the time of biting cold. So, the first priority of the RNA should be to identify, launch rescue operations and provide relief to the most-affected people to ensure somehow cozy living, internalising the Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) prepared by the National Planning Commission with support from the key donor agencies before the International Conference on Nepal’s Reconstruction (ICNR).

Paudyal said, “The NRA should work to protect the lives of those living in vulnerable condition. The authority should identity such grey areas either by mobilising the government mechanisms or by itself. The long-term management of the quake-survivors should be based on the same foundation.”

Relocating the scattered settlements and finding the proper lands to shift the people living in vulnerabilities should be the NRA’s next focus, Paudyal adds.

Side by side, the NRA is required to work out for the formulation of guidelines to effectively launch the reconstruction jobs and provide the humanitarian assistance in an easy and assessable fashion.

Likewise, the NRA is required to prioritise the works for preparing the procedures for ensuring an utmost quality of the new construction, transparency in overall construction works, managing people’s participation and providing ownership of the locals to the development projects as well as maximum utilisation of the locally available resources to yield better results and achieve a success.

As this is the campaign linked to nation’s capacity and the thousands of victims’ sorrows and sufferings, the government should leave no stone untured to make the expenses of the NRA transparent. So, to do away with the possible chances of financial misappropriations in the mega campaign, transparency in all processes and systems as well as immediate and stern actions to the wrongdoers would help achieve the result as expected. RSS

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