Reconstruction is speeding up in Nepal three years after the earthquakes of April and May 2015 that killed around 9,000 people and left at least 3.5 million others homeless. Only 20% of the houses eligible to be rebuilt with government grants have been completed, but work is now underway on more than 60% of them. In Sindhupalchowk, which suffered major destruction, virtually every street is now a busy work site.
Amansing Tamang, the mayor of Chautara, the district’s main town, says reconstruction will take at least one more year: “Only 5% of the houses here survived. All the rest were destroyed or badly damaged," he says. "Reconstruction was delayed because people thought only cement buildings were earthquake resistant and they didn’t have enough money to build them. Then the administrative procedure is very long, and people not knowing exactly what to do has also caused further delays.”
Earthquake resistant homes
The Government is backing owner-based reconstruction. Every eligible owner gets 2,600 euros (3,000 dollars) in three instalments, released only when the work done meets earthquake resistance requirements at each stage of rebuilding. Meanwhile, people are still living in temporary homes.
Some 80% of Nepalese people who lost their homes after the earthquake have been living in temporary shelters. They are made from corrugated iron, which makes them extremely cold during winter and excessively hot in the summertime.
Euronews reporter Monica Pinna visited the shelter where Nany Maya lives. Its roughly 15 square metres space serves as her kitchen, bedroom and living room.
"My old house just nearby was destroyed by the earthquake. It was bigger and more comfortable than this place, where I've lived for the past three years," Nana tells us. "The money I receive from the government is not enough. I've had to buy sand, concrete, cement, reinforcing steel rebar and bricks. It’s just not enough.”
Nany has had to build the foundations of her future new home with the first grant instalment and some additional financial help from relatives. Work is now on hold while she waits for the second tranche and more family help.
The situation becomes more complex when families have to take out loans, according to Renaud Meyer, United Nations Development Programme's Country Director for Nepal.
“Most of the victims are in remote areas, where the price of reconstruction material is higher than down in the plains, so when you add it all up, you don’t get a new house for 3,000 dollars, he says. "People still want a house but the access to finance is very limited, so impatient earthquake victims resort to informal channels of loan where the interest rates go anywhere between 20 to 60%.”
The UN agency is in charge of a EU financed project to rebuild better homes cheaper.