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Nepal’s quake survivors still struggling to rebuild

Prime Minister Sharma Oli accepts that rebuilding after 2015 earthquake has remained sluggish

  | 25.04.2018
Nepal’s quake survivors still struggling to rebuild FILE PHOTO

By Deepak Adhikari

KATHMANDU, Nepal

As Nepal on Wednesday marked the third anniversary of a devastating earthquake that killed 9,000 people, survivors who lost their homes and families voiced anger at the government for its sluggish recovery efforts.

While the government refrained from organizing any formal memorial to mark the day, communities took the occasion to remember the tragic day of three years ago, when the quake wounded 22,000 and left over half a million homeless.

Uttam Tamang, a 24-year-old at Haku, a remote mountain hamlet in the Rasuwa district northwest of Kathmandu, lost his 88-year-old grandmother in the quake.

Other nine members of his family survived the disaster -- the biggest to hit Nepal in 80 years -- but it forced him to scramble for a roof for his family.

“I waited for three years to rebuild my house, but the government didn’t release the grant ($ 3000 Nepali grant handed in three installments),” he told Anadolu Agency.

A landslide after the earthquake made the area uninhabitable, local officials told him, but they assured him and his neighbors that they would be resettled to a safer place.

“They didn’t allow me to rebuild my house, but they also never relocated us,” he said. As a result, he spent the past three years in a rented room in Dhunche, the district headquarters.

The father of a one-year-old baby girl finally found a job at an NGO two years ago, with a monthly salary of 20,000 rupees, but he being the sole breadwinner of the family, including his 64-year-old mother, it has never sufficed.

“I feel sad,” he said of the state’s apathy, his only solace being that his mother was eligible for the reconstruction grant.

But he is faced with the difficult task of bringing building materials to his place, which is hours from the nearest dirt track.

Stories such as Uttam’s are legion across the huge swathes of central Nepal devastated in the earthquake on April 25, 2015, where thousands remain in temporary shelters.

In the village of Borlang in the Gorkha district, about 160 kilometers west of Kathmandu, Bhoj Bahadur Thapa is at final stages of rebuilding a two-room concrete home.

He is yet to receive the third installment, but is already frustrated with the complicated process involved in the reception of the grants.

“The government should have handed it at one go. There are so many rules and regulations that it hinders my work (rebuilding home),” he said.

Nepal’s Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli, who on Wednesday addressed a gathering in Kathmandu in the midst of the ruins of a landmark toppled in the quake, accepted the fact that rebuilding remained sluggish, but he could only repeat pledges to speed it up.

“The reconstruction campaign has failed to make headway. I had launched the campaign to rebuild Dharahara (a minaret-like landmark) a year ago, but it’s yet to go ahead,” he said vowing to resolve all issues (pertaining to rebuilding heritage sites) and start rebuilding by May 29.

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