My recent visit to Nepal suggested indications of positive developments in the country. Today, as we observe the third anniversary of the destructive 2015 earthquake in Nepal, which caused 9,000 deaths and a loss of US$7 billion, these developments have strong implications for the process of recovery and reconstruction in Nepal.
With the new majority government in place following the elections of December 2017, it is indeed expected for the Nepalese to hope for greater political stability and a faster implementation of the earthquake recovery programme. Even though the international community pledged $4.1 billion for the entire programme following the 2015 earthquake, the programme got off to a slow start.
UNDP has been actively supporting the National Reconstruction Authority, which was set up following the earthquake, on various aspects of the recovery programme. Almost three years later, UNDP has now undertaken an ambitious task of supporting housing recovery in Gorkha district, one of the worst affected districts by the earthquake. With the Government of India’s assistance, UNDP launched a programme in March 2018 to assist about 27,000 home-owners to rebuild their houses. If all goes as planned, the programme will be one of the largest post-disaster recovery programme that UNDP has ever implemented. Along with UNDP, UNOPS will provide similar support to housing recovery in adjacent Nuwakot district. As India extends its support through its financial and technical resources, the programme serves an excellent example of South-South cooperation.
UNDP’s approach to recovery has always emphasized inculcating skills and capacities at the household and community levels— an owner-driven approach to housing recovery. Such an approach involves a continuous dialogue with home-owners during the process of design and layout of the houses, and technical assistance and oversight for effective implementation.
UNDP will provide on-site technical assistance on construction technology, earthquake-resistant features, government policies, material procurement and process management. UNDP will train engineers, masons and building artisans in large numbers to provide relevant technical assistance to home-owners. UNDP has partnered with several NGOs, which have come together to set up the Owner-driven Reconstruction Collaborative (ODRC). Building upon local knowledge and practices, UNDP will offer housing solutions that are affordable, environment-friendly and gender-sensitive. While UNDP will help home-owners rebuild their houses, the programme will also demonstrate the efficacy of building technologies and practices which improve both resilience as well as living conditions of the people. The two-year programme has kicked off!
The decentralization process offered by the 2015 federal constitution and set in motion by the recent elections will allow new provincial and local governments to play a major role in disaster response and recovery. It could also be seen in wider application of earthquake recovery policy. After the floods in 2017, the national government decided to apply these policies to the flood-affected people as well. Following the floods, and the post-disaster needs assessment that UNDP supported in October 2017, the government announced a slew of measures to help people recover from the impact of floods. The national government has also just enacted the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act, 2017. As UNDP works closely with the government to implement the Act and set up a new institution, National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Authority, the good news is that, in the wake of the earthquake, disaster risk management has emerged as an important priority at all levels in Nepal.