It has been 28 months since the devastating earthquake in 2015 flattened the hilly villages in central and western Nepal.
But the people of Laprak village, the epicenter of the 7.6 Richter scale earthquake in Gorkha, are still living in tattered tents with dwindling support from the government without basic amenities. Four governments have already changed since the quake hit the nation. But none of them have been able to rehabilitate the villagers displaced by the natural disaster.
In Laprak alone, 26 people lost their lives and hundreds of others were wounded. Twenty months after the natural disaster, the government however gave permission to the Non-Resident Nepali Association (NRNA) to construct 573 units of individual houses on 18.32 hectares of land provided by the government in Ghupsipakha of Dharche Rural Municipality.
However, the NRNA has barely managed to lay foundations of 270 houses in public land. The association is supposed to hand over as many as 300 houses by October-end. But it has been far behind the schedule.
It has blamed the delay in constructing the houses on difficulty in transporting the construction materials due to incessant rains and poor conditions of the road leading to the village.
As the construction work is delayed the NRNA has asked quake victims to extend their cooperation with the association such as providing timber, gravel, sand and boulders meant for laying foundation and making window panes and doors.
The association had to turn to the victims after the Ministry of Forest refused to provide timber to other than the victims. But the victims themselves do not have timber sufficient enough to build the houses. The victims have said that they can contribute their labour but not the material help sought by the association.
The NRNA has estimated Rs. 350 million would be needed to build the houses and other facilities, including piped drinking water. Not only NRNA, even the Nepali Army personnel, over a dozen engineers, as many as 167 workers and volunteers from various organizations are also engaged in the construction work there. But it has taken a long time to finish the task.
Locals have said only a handful of engineers are staying at the construction site.
If the concerns raised by the NRNA are genuine the government must address those problems immediately. It is the responsibility of the government to provide timber as per its policy and repair the access road damaged by monsoon rains so that the construction materials can be transported to the site.
The association which has mobilized the required resources cannot carry out its task alone without the support from the government. The National Reconstruction Authority (NRA), which was formed to facilitate the reconstruction works of individual houses and public infrastructure, cannot remain aloof by simply stating that a contract has been signed with the NRNA for building the houses at Laprak.
The NRA should also build schools, health posts, provide electricity to the locals and repair the damage simultaneously.
All line ministries of the government must extend immediate support to non-governmental organizations extending their helping hands to the victims whose desire is to shift to new houses from torn tents.
On the rise
There has been an increase in wildlife poaching in recent years. Police believe that international drug smugglers are involved, and they were using Kathmandu as a transit to smuggle body parts of wildlife.
Police have succeeded in nabbing 107 suspects with the body parts of 47 endangered animals in the fiscal 2016-17 and the number of those arrested has been the highest in the last five years or so.
Wildlife body parts of endangered animals are sold to foreign countries, mostly China. They are believed to have medicinal value and aesthetic use.
Skins of red pandas, leopards, deer and Eurasian eagles are particularly in demand. Since the incidence of poaching of wildlife body parts is on the rise it is high time that action was taken to bring this illegal activity to a halt. There is a provision to fine up to Rs. 100,000 and give a jail term of five to 15 years.
But this has not deterred the smugglers and poachers from continuing their nefarious activities. Nepal is home to many exotic wildlife species but now they are being threatened.
The Himalayan Times, July 13, 2017