Som Prasad Mishra has been serving as Mayor of Changunarayan Municipality in Bhaktapur for the past six months. For the first issue of the PRAGATI newsletter, Mayor Mishra spoke to Shakti Gurung, the Project Coordinator of FSCN in Bhaktapur, about his views on the role of development partners in Nepal after the earthquake. Excerpts:
What would you say has been the contribution of development and humanitarian agencies in post-earthquake reconstruction efforts in Nepal?
As far as Changunarayan is concerned, we’re very positive about the assistance we’ve received so far. Organizations working in this area have carried out their interventions in a very coordinated manner, and this has helped to prevent duplications in relief distribution and other forms of support. This was a major concern for us as a government institution—we wanted to have a common platform for all efforts in Changunarayan so that the real needs of the community could be identified and addressed.
In this respect, various development and humanitarian organizations have been supporting the reconstruction process in our municipality. Their contribution has ranged from livelihood support and water supply schemes, to training of masons in safer construction practices, among others. Some, like DCA and FSCN, have also supported data collection to do with earthquake-affected households, which is a valuable asset for the municipality in the long run, enabling us to better plan future programmes and actions.
How far along is the municipality in terms of reconstruction?
Reconstruction has begun in earnest, but the going is somewhat slow due to a variety of constraints. To start with, the procedure to apply for and receive grants in itself is rather lengthy and complex, and houseowners have reported difficulty in completing and submitting the required forms and documents. Around 8,000 people so far have received the first installment of the grant, whereas only 1,000 have so far received the second, and just one person has claimed the third. One of the issues was that people had to pay for getting their construction drawings approved, so with this in mind, we have made it free of cost for the next year to encourage people to come forth. The National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) has also arranged a meeting with the municipality’s ward chairs to hold discussions on the reconstruction process.
What are your expectations from non-governmental organizations?
We’ve always been very appreciative of their concern and support for the people of Changunarayan; their work has so far well complemented the programmes and objectives of the municipality. So, at this point, we’re hoping for more of the same, really—we would like them to do their utmost to coordinate and collaborate with the municipality in taking their interventions forward.
Could you talk more specifically about the efforts of ECHO – ADRA and NDRC/DCA and FSCN in the wake of the disaster insofar as recovery and reconstruction are concerned?
Again, I’d say the experience has been very positive. DCA/FSCN have been steadfast in their willingness to help the municipality, starting immediately after the disaster. They provided relief materials like food baskets, cash support and water trucks, as well as psychological counselling for traumatized citizens. I myself was personally involved in these programmes.
And the support continued long after that initial period. The MAGPI data collection at the household level, and the exertions of the ongoing PRAGATI to establish IMC, MEOC and CC/DRR learning centers in the municipality, are just some examples of how they’ve helped the municipality embrace concrete disaster risk management and disaster response measures. They have also been instrumental in facilitating the formation of the MDMC and WDMCs, which the new DRR Act has now deemed mandatory for all municipalities in the country.
Do you have any recommendations to offer to increase the efficiency of the reconstruction process in your municipality?
In the case of Changunarayan, one of the most difficult issues we are facing at present is the fact that most of the earthquake-affected people have been living on land that they don’t own. And it’s very difficult to determine who the actual owners are, since many do not possess land-ownership documents, thereby preventing them from applying for grants.
Given this situation, we are presently lobbying with the NRA to develop a provision for people who have been living on a given piece of land for more than five or six generations, to enable them to acquire the reconstruction grants and gain the authority to rebuild their homes on these plots, even without a land-ownership document. Only then can the reconstruction process be sped up satisfactorily.