Reconstruction in Nepal After Earthquake 2015

Deborah K. Vick

The NRA is the legally mandated agency for leading and managing the earthquake recovery and reconstruction in Nepal. NRA provides strategic guidance to identify and address to the priorities for recovery and reconstruction, taking into account both urgent needs as well as those of a medium- to long-term nature. The NRA was formed on 25 December 2015, when the government appointed the Chief Executive Officer.

Overall Objectives

The NRA’s overall goal is to promptly complete the reconstruction works of the structures damaged by the devastating earthquake of 25 April 2015 and subsequent aftershocks, in a sustainable, resilient and planned manner to promote national interest and provide social justice by making resettlement and translocation of the persons and families displaced by the earthquake. (Adapted from the NRA Act)
The objectives of the NRA as articulated in the National Reconstruction Policy are:
• To reconstruct, retrofit and restore partially- and completely-damaged residential, community and government buildings and heritage sites, to make them disaster-resistant using local technologies as needed;
• To reconstruct (restore) damaged cities and ancient villages to their original form, while improving the resilience of the structures;
• To build resilience among people and communities at risk in the earthquake-affected districts;
• To develop new opportunities by revitalizing the productive sector for economic opportunities and livelihoods;
• To study and research the science of earthquakes, their impact including damages and effects, and post-earthquake recovery, including reconstruction, resettlement, rehabilitation and disaster risk reduction; and
• To resettle the affected communities by identifying appropriate sites

Role & Functions of Government:

The National Planning Commission prepared Post-Earthquake Recovery and Reconstruction Policy, which discourages use of prefabricated building materials, makes it mandatory for international non-governmental organizations to rope in domestic partners before executing works related to rehabilitation and reconstruction, and calls for utilization of domestic financial resources to rebuild national and local heritage sites.

The policy was prepared based on suggestions laid by the prime minister-led National Reconstruction Consultative Committee, strategies prescribed by the PDNA report and recommendations made during the June 25 International Conference on Nepal’s Reconstruction.

“It will work as a guiding tool for donor agencies, INGOs, NGOs and other organizations to frame programs on recovery and reconstruction and aid those affected by earthquakes,”.

Although the policy was supposed to be formulated by the NRA, the NPC took the initiative in this regard to help the body expedite implementation of rehabilitation and reconstruction programs once it formally begins operation.
The policy, has recommended ways to create jobs at the local level, improve livelihood and ensure the most vulnerable are not left out. The main focus of the draft policy is on rebuilding private houses damaged by the earthquake, restoration of social infrastructure, such as schools and health centers, and reconstruction of heritage sites.

To meet these targets, principle of ‘Centralized Policy, Decentralized Programmers’ has been adopted. As per this principle, policies would be framed by central government agencies, while work plans to implement these policies would be designed at districts or local levels.

The policy has, thus, called on everyone interested in taking part in the reconstruction drive, especially NGOs and INGOs, to follow standard, design and methods approved by the government while preparing their programs, and work in coordination with local communities during implementation phase.
“INGOs interested in taking part in rehabilitation and reconstruction activities must work in coordination with Nepali agencies and take consent of local communities before executing their works,” states the draft policy. It adds that people must rebuild or renovate their destroyed or damaged houses on their own. “The government would extend financial and technical support in this regard,” states the draft, adding, “The funds pledged by the government would be deposited in joint account of husband and wife, wherever possible.”

Also, technical teams would be dispatched to demonstrate techniques of building quake-resilient houses, and skills training would be offered to those interested. “A third of the participants of skills training and orientation programs should be females,” adds the draft.

The policy has also laid emphasis on local participation in construction of private houses so as to create jobs. It has also prioritized use of local construction materials such as concrete and mud blocks, precast beam and slabs.
“Use of prefabricated materials and other imported construction materials should be discouraged,” states the policy.

It speaks of extending funds to house owners and tenants, who do not have a place to stay because of destruction, caused by quakes, forming mechanisms to ensure transparency during procurement processes, establishment of district rehabilitation and reconstruction coordination committees, and appointment of undersecretary level staff as district reconstruction coordinator.

By enforcing the Essential Services Operation Act, 1957, the Government ensured the supply of essential goods and services to the affected region. The Central Natural Disaster Relief Committee (CNDRC) coordinated and masterminded all the rescue and relief works. The CNDRC formed a Central Command Post (CCP) headed by Home Secretary. Alternative provisional arrangements were made for the smooth delivery of public services related to education, health, justice, security as well as administrative services until public schools, health institutions, courts and other infrastructures of public importance damaged in the earthquake are reconstructed. Nepal’s National Disaster Response Framework (NDRF) served as a key tool for coordination of earthquake response, facilitating decisions and instructions from the central government. The first meeting of the Central Disaster Relief Committee (CDRC) was held two hours after the first earthquake, with the National Emergency Operation Centre (NEOC) providing an initial report to the CDRC recommending a focus on Search and Rescue (SAR), and lifesaving actions. Financial resources from the Prime Minister’s Disaster Relief Fund were immediately allocated, and the government’s Cluster mechanisms, comprising 11 sectors, were instantly activated.

Reconstruction Principles and Strategy
The key principles for reconstruction have been identified as follows:
• Reconstruction should empower communities to take control of their recovery, facilitated through the ODR (owner driven reconstruction) approach.
• Reconstruction should apply “integrated safer settlement” principles where appropriate, involving the principles of holistic habitat development with an emphasis on basic services and community infrastructure.
• Reconstruction should become a vehicle for building long-term community resilience.
• Reconstruction should strengthen the local economy through processes supportive of the poor, marginalized and informal sector. It should provide an opportunity for the poor to upgrade their overall living and economic conditions.
• Reconstruction should ensure sustainable and environmentally conscious processes that keep in mind issues such as climate change, natural resource management and scientific risk assessments.
• Reconstruction should be equitable and inclusive, with equal rights to land and property accorded to women.
• Reconstruction should be initiated through targeted strategies that address the specific needs of the diverse communities and settlement affected by the earthquakes.

According to the PDNA reports and numerous other needs assessment conducted by different agencies shows the current needs of the people priority wise as follows:
– Permanent shelter
– Safe learning centre
– Winterization materials like blanket, Warm cloths, tarpaulin, P-foam
– Safe/proper sanitation facilities
– Seed bank/agricultural equipment’s
– Medical and health care facilities
– Capacity building/ skills development training: develop an employment strategy based on skills for construction
– income generating skills

Best Practices and Lessons Learned

Innovation and technology

Information management and communication
Technology was vital in helping overcome information exchange and communication issues, whether through the use of mobile phones to facilitate communication between field staff or through innovations, such as the IFRC’s Surge Information Management System. Other organisations, including Christian Aid and Oxfam, used mobile phones for data collection, thereby allowing for more rapid programme changes. However, the DEC review cautioned against the use of high technology; ” the wrong impression can easily be projected by staff entering a community with smartphones on show.”

Humanitarian communication
Multiple media channels (including social media) were rapidly used to inform the public about the crisis and INGO response. Social media also provided a source of information to help agencies understand how the local population was affected and responding to the disaster.

Several innovative approaches were reported:
• The introduction of ‘child-friendly spaces’ by World Vision was viewed positively by government and local partners and as a practical way of helping children and protecting young girls from sexual abuse inside the camps.
• ActionAid was engaging with women’s rights and youth mobilisation groups with the longer-term goal of using the disaster response as an opportunity to transform society from an economic and social perspective, particularly where gender is concerned.
• The earthquake provided a context in which gender inequalities could be addressed. For instance, strategies for the prevention of gender-based violence, following the earthquake, have also contributed to an awareness of pre-earthquake inequalities.
• CAFOD’s partner, Catholic Relief Services, set up a shelter demo-site in order to pilot different building models and for builders, carpenters and labourers to be trained in safe building techniques.
• Plan International combined mobile health and education teams, adapted to ensure outreach to the most vulnerable households who may not attend group sessions in the community, and to suit remote, hard to-reach locations.

Coordination with national and UN structures
Coordination with other actors was mostly positive and supported by existing national mechanisms and the cluster system put in place; efforts were still needed for such systems to be more inclusive (notably with local NGOs).
Regional material and human resources rosters and information
Information about supplies available in the region would be useful in the context of difficulties in procuring materials locally. Equally, agencies expressed an interest in a database of skills and staff available for surge regionally across agencies. It was suggested that this roster or database could cover local organisations as well as INGOs and could focus on longer-term staffing needs that are harder to fulfil.
Devolution of decision-making to the local/regional levels
While many agencies required centralised support for resource mobilisation and staffing, the surge response illustrated the potential of decentralised decision-making at the regional and local levels. This was also credited to the autonomy provided to managers on the ground. 7.3. Materials and equipment

Cash programming
Cash transfers were described as the ‘backbone’ to the Nepal response and were used by about half of the agencies. Household surveys indicated, however, the need to be sensitive to issues of fairness when dealing with cash distribution.58
Agencies advocated strengthening the pre-positioning of goods (for instance via memorandums of understanding with local vendors) and pre-negotiation with customs authorities to avoid import difficulties and delays. Staff and set-up

Flexible surge staffing
Looking at how agencies responded to the Nepal earthquake, varying combinations of standing teams, rosters, national, neighbouring and regional staff were used, illustrating the need for flexibility in solutions. If a common trait in staff response could be seen it was in capitalising on human resources within the country or close to it.

In-country programme staff
Part of emergency preparedness should involve preparing existing programme in-country staff to be ready to respond outside of their normal role.
New skill sets for staff

The response showed the need for staff with different skill sets: communication and fundraising; cash programming and shelter. Although the latter is not a new skill set it proved to be in short supply. One agency commented that deploying communication and fundraising staff immediately allowed the surge team to focus on responding rather than dealing with the pressures of the media, headquarters and donors. Given the particularities of the Nepal response, it was not certain that agencies would step up their capacities globally in shelter; more so, the other skill sets of communication, fundraising and cash programming were considered more of a priority for future responses.

Emergency-response team building in peace time
Following the example of Islamic Relief, regional rosters and teams would clearly benefit from joint training exercises, enabling them to work more effectively together when an emergency arises.


The following are key recommendations based on the findings of this report:

Deployment and response
• Government agencies should develop their capacities in communication, fundraising and cash programming for future responses.
• Humanitarian actors are encouraged to facilitate procurement by strengthening the pre-positioning of goods, pre-negotiating with customs authorities and exploring the possibility of collaborating at the regional level to share information about supplies available in the region.
• Agencies are encouraged to take further steps in responses to address the needs of the most marginalised groups, including women, through the use of aggregated data, strengthening collaboration with women’s groups and recognising women’s skills as key for surge responders.
• Humanitarian actors and donors should work together to develop a collective voice to advocate issues of common concern, such as improved national policies and regulations for disaster response (based on international disaster-response laws, rules and principles).
• Government agencies make strict guideline of permanent shelter for effective use of housing grant.

Staff and set-up
• Agencies are encouraged to explore ways of harnessing regional and neighbouring surge response, including through the creation of regional response teams and by carrying out emergency-response team building training in peacetime.
• Agencies should strengthen the emergency preparedness of their existing programme staff to enable them to work beyond their normal roles when needed.
• Agencies should consider the possibility of devolving further decision-making to the regional and local levels, providing managers with greater autonomy to react on the ground.

Communication and technology
• Humanitarian actors are encouraged to explore the use of social media and mobile phones in the surge response, for communication and as a source of data collection in order to assess the needs of affected populations.
• Agencies are well known about information of community and use the technology for better response and recovery action as well as monitoring of field level actions.

• Agencies should further support the creation of a regional roster of staff across agencies that include local organisations as well as INGOs.
• Agencies should strictly follow the cluster mechanism to decrease the duplication and effectiveness of programme implementation.

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