By Bigyan Pradhan
Acting Country Director, the World Bank
We are approaching the third anniversary of the devastating earthquakes that disrupted Nepal’s progress towards its development goals. Despite the series of challenges that followed the earthquakes, the Nepalese people have shown remarkable resilience in the face of adversity. The Government of Nepal showedableleadership in laying out the legal and institutional framework to undertake a large-scale reconstruction program by creating the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA). The NRA has played a pivotal role in bringing together development partners and organizations on the ground to take the reconstruction process forward.
One of the key mandates of NRA has been to design and implement the rural housing reconstruction program that aims at homeowner-driven reconstruction of about 650,000 houses to earthquake-resistant standards with continuous socio-technical facilitation. This is one of the largest post-disaster housing reconstruction programs and the challenges in implementation are further compounded by the mountainous terrain with weak connectivity, lack of skilled construction workers and material supplies, and frequent changes in leadership and key staffing at the implementing agencies. These inherent challenges have caused inordinate delays in delivering recovery benefit to the affected population and slowed the pace of reconstruction.
In spite of the massive scope and scale of the housing reconstruction program, the NRA has established a sound implementation framework and housing grant disbursement system. Few key elements of this framework are: identification and enrollment of eligible beneficiaries based on the housing damage survey; developing a management information system and a multi-tier grievance redressal system; conducting mass awareness programs, trainings for masons and artisans, and communication campaigns for safer construction practices and government-approved design specifications; house quality inspection regime to ensure earthquake-resistant construction at several construction stages and guidelines for corrective actions; and above all, a streamlined fund flow with digital recordkeeping and direct payment of housing subsidy into the beneficiaries’ designated bank accounts.
While the pace of reconstruction has accelerated in past few months, there are critical areas that need sharper focus andscaled-up support. These include providing expanded support to most vulnerable beneficiaries, ensuring continued socio-technical assistance at local level, strengthening the inspection regime with adequate staffing and equipment, and bridging the manpower deficit at key implementing agencies. In the days ahead, the primary focus should be on implementation of programs and aim to complete all reconstruction works ahead of schedule.
The World Bank remains committed to the coalition of major development partners that is supporting the housing reconstruction program and pools resources for providing continuous socio-technical assistance to homeowners for construction. With the contributions from the governments of Canada, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States, the World Bank -administered Multi Donor Trust Fund is providing significant supportto the housing reconstruction program and leverages its development impact.
We look forward to continued collaboration with the NRA and the government, our partners and the Nepali people to build a more resilient Nepal.