Govt weighs options to settle homeless

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KATHMANDU, MAY 07 – Criticised for its lack of policy initiatives in the wake of the Great Earthquake, the government is considering a rehabilitation plan for those whose houses have either been destroyed or severely damaged.

According to the preliminary data compiled by the Ministry of Home Affairs, 200,552 private houses were destroyed in 14 worst-hit districts while 186,285 others were partially damaged.

Sindhupalchok faces the greatest destruction of homes. A total of 66,635 houses are uninhabitable in the district while the figure is 66,458 for Gorkha, the epicentre of the earthquake.  Local authorities estimate that more than 45,000 buildings were devastated in Dolakha, 90,000 in Rasuwa and 43,000 in Ramechhap.

The number of damaged houses, according to officials, could go up once a household assessment is done.

“Most districts have reported damage to 80-90 percent houses,” said Rameshwor Dangal, chief of the Disaster Management Division at the Home Ministry.

Based on the ministry’s preliminary report, the government is preparing to offer three options to people who have been rendered homeless.

The first option is to construct ‘organised human settlement’, which means resettling quake victims together. “Organised settlement is our first priority. It would be easier for us if all the displaced people agreed to stay in an area,” said Minister for Information and Communications Minen-dra Rijal.

To get the plans going, the major parties have been holding discussions to build sustainable housing. As a temporary arrangement, tents are being sent to the quake-affected districts.

But there is much preliminary work that needs to be sorted out first. “We are yet to fix the amount for individual victims and subsidised loans for those who want to reconstruct buildings on their own by spending more money than has been set aside by the government,” said Nepali Congress leader Purna Bahadur Khadka.

The options will be presented in Parliament once the parties reach an understanding on the schemes. The three major parties are scheduled to hold pertinent discussions at the prime minister’s residence in Baluwatar on Thursday morning, before the scheduled House meeting. The leaders were supposed to have endorsed the rehabilitation schemes on Wednesday, but the plan was deferred after the heads of the three major parties—Sushil Koirala, KP Sharma Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal—opted to jointly inspect the worst-hit districts.

The government has already set up a National Reconstruction Fund to rebuild the national infrastructure, archaeological sites and public houses. Rs20 billion has been allocated as seed money. The government plans to put together at least Rs200 billion to fund reconstruction.

– According to preliminary data, 200,552 private houses have been destroyed in 14 worst-hit districts while 186,285 others were partially damaged

– The government is preparing to offer three options to people who have been rendered homeless

– The first option is to construct ‘organised human settlement’, which means resettling quake victims together

– Idea to be presented in Parliament once the parties reach an understanding on the schemes

Governance, service delivery hit overall

ANIL GIRI (KATHMANDU)

Twelve days after the Great Earthquake, governance and service delivery remain hampered overall as the country’s administrative hub, Singha Durbar, suffered a major jolt.

Buildings housing the Prime Minister Office, the Ministries of Defence, Youth and Sports, Labour and Employment, Finance and Foreign Affairs have sustained cracks. Staffers have been unable to go back to their offices there.

The Defence Ministry has been shifted to the National Security Council Secretariat nearby. Officials of the Youth Ministry are working from a makeshift structure set up in the open space as their building got a red sticker from engineers.

Lack of elected representatives at the grassroots has prompted the government to deploy 600 staffers to quake-hit local government units to collect data, provide relief and coordinate with aid agencies.

Additionally, 1,900 employees have been asked to reach quake-hit districts to join search, rescue and relief efforts. This leaves the central secretariat under-staffed.

The much-needed role of the political leadership and ministers at this time of disaster is absent from Singha Durbar as many ministers are out in the quake-hit areas. Services other than essential have been disrupted outside the 14 most affected districts. “We are not distributing passport and citizenship until Friday due to the staff crunch,” said Chief District Officer Ek Narayan Aryal of Kathmandu .

“We are in a state of fear and anxiety as our building has been ruined,” said an under-secretary at the Ministry of Labour and Employment. Services have been crippled at its busiest Department of Foreign Employment.

Chief Secretary Leela Mani Paudyal admitted that governance was hit hard by the quake. “I have instructed officials to remain on duty 24 hours.”

As many as 56 joint-secretaries have been sent on the ground for situation assessment while a large number of under-secretaries and section officers have been assigned to the districts outside the Capital for aid distribution.

Some 327 engineers have been deputed to collect data on damaged houses, government buildings, schools and hospitals.