Nepal earthquake anniversary: A year of total failure and guarded optimism

Nepal's president Vidhya Devi Bhandari and NRNA President Shesh Ghale at a recent function on post-earthquake reconstruction.
Nepal’s president Bidya Devi Bhandari and NRNA President Shesh Ghale at a recent function on post-earthquake reconstruction (Facebook photo)

The global leader of Nepalese diaspora has expressed regret that whilst his organisation had gathered the required funds only months after last year’s devastating earthquake, bureaucratic red tape and insensitive leadership prolonged the construction of homes for Nepal earthquake survivors.

Shesh Ghale, the president of Non-Resident Nepali Association (NRNA), had last year championed a project to build an ambitious 1000 homes for the victims of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit the Himalayan nation on 25 April 2015. The proposed construction of these homes at an estimated cost of 350 million rupees was mandated by the global conference of NRNA, held in Kathmandu last October. These thousand homes alone would not have met the complete need of the devastated country but the NRNA project nevertheless would have helped a thousand families living under the stars – that is, if the government was proactive enough to appreciate the urgency of the dire circumstances facing its own people. Any government in any other corner of the world would have cleared all hurdles overnight for the implementation of the project, probably with much gratitude too. But the Nepalese government, for its own weird bureaucratic reasons, failed to act promptly and clear ways for the implementation of the project.

NEPAL EARTHQUAKE
A young earthquake victim sits in front of his devastated home in Gorkha district. Photo: AAP

Yesterday marked the first anniversary of the temblor. Not one of those proposed 1000 homes has been built. The Government of Nepal has done little it can be proud of.

Has the government done anything? Yes. It provided approximately A$ 300 to the affected families to buy emergency provisions and approximately $480 for the death of each family member. Apart from this, the only constructive step towards reconstruction has been the establishment of the National Reconstruction Authority last December.

Despite tall promises of a speedy reconstruction, tens of thousands of victims still live in flimsy temporary shelters that make mockery of the two governments Nepal has had since the disaster.

Nepal
Miracle Baby of Nepal earthquake 2015 (File photo)

“Our brothers, sisters, children and elders have endured 365 days under temporary shelters. Whilst we had the resources and willingness, we could not help them!” Mr Ghale expressed his veiled frustration in an emailed interview with southasia.com.au.

“Let’s hope by next anniversary, we would have achieved much more and will have some legitimate reason to celebrate our achievements. As humans, we live on hopes – tomorrow will be a better than today,” the education entrepreneur added, perhaps only his good manners stopping him from saying more about the frustrating and meaningless procrastination of the reconstruction process.

Belatedly though, on the eve of Nepal earthquake, Mr Ghale emphatically announced an ‘agreement’ with the Nepalese government to develop a ‘model village’ at Laprak. The proposed construction site is not far from the epicentre of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake, hence the devastation of 612 households in that village.

The NRNA president, who is the CEO of Melbourne-based MIT Group and 99th richest person on the BRW Rich List, told SBS Nepali Service that ‘it is a matter of shame’ that the ‘thousand homes project’ did not materialise after all these months but pointed out that the delay occurred due to ‘factors’ beyond his control.

NAV
Anupam Pokharel

Dr Anupam Pokharel, the newly-elected president of Nepalese Association of Victoria (NAV), came down heavily on the Nepalese government when he said the country was fast degenerating into another Haiti, “Looking at the miseries of the survivors, specifically those who had to spend winter fighting cold in unsafe and unhygienic dwellings, there is a serious chance of Nepal replacing Haiti as an example of the Government’s indifference, insensitivity and incapability.”

The consultant psychiatrist also lambasted the government for its ‘snail-like speed’ in the reconstruction process but expressed hope at the recent developments. He was referring to the announcement made by Shesh Ghale on April 24.

One does not need a PhD in post-disaster reconstruction to see the scale of Nepalese authorities’ failure. Their failure to act in a timely and proactive manner is in fact a bigger disaster than the original disaster that caused the tragedy in the first place.

“Earthquake report card: Government failed” – reads a headline of Annapurna Post, a vernacular daily with increasingly nationalistic fervour, “Promises galore but implementation minimal.”

“Reconstruction picks up after a year has lapsed,” another headline by Rajdhani.

A candlelight vigil to mark the first anniversary of Nepal earthquake organised by NAYA
A candlelight vigil organised in Sydney’s Ashfield suburb to mark the first anniversary of Nepal earthquake

Despite the pessimism and negativity, hundreds of Australian Nepalese turned up for candlelight vigils to mark the first anniversary of the April 25 disaster. Nepalese Youth Association Australia and Lahuri Group organised a vigil at Sydney’s Ashfield suburb. According to Sandhya Shah who was one of the organisers, nearly 250 people turned up at the vigil. Speaking on the occasion, the president of NRNA Australia Surendra Sigdel paid homage to the nine thousand lives lost to the natural calamity. He also apprised the participants about the latest developments in the reconstruction efforts saying that the Nepalese government has already given permission to NRNA to build a ‘model village’ at Laprak in Gorkha district.

Nepalese expatriates living in Melbourne also organised a similar vigil.

Indra Ban OAM
Indra Ban OAM (Photo: Facebook, MNTV)

When asked to comment on the post-earthquake Nepal, a senior member of the Nepalese diaspora in Australia said that she was so disillusioned with the Nepalese government that she did not want to say anything.

“What can I say? Who is responsible for those sufferers? Why are they still living in tents? I am so disillusioned and disappointed with the authorities that I don’t want to say anything,” Indra Ban OAM told southasia.com.au.

She termed the government’s performance to be an ‘insult’ the the intelligence of Nepalese people.

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