OVER A year after the devastating earthquake that killed around 9,000 people and damaged about 2,600 structures in Nepal, the government still appears to be struggling to properly start reconstruction work as only one temple has been fully restored in the past year, UNESCO’s Nepal chief said. The UN official added that a blockade of supplies from India also delayed restoration work in the nation by six months.
“Only one small temple has been fully restored in Changunarayan (temple premises in Bhaktapur) in one year,” Christian Manhart, head of office and UNESCO Representative for Nepal, told The Indian Express. “As for others, a lot of preparatory work has taken place.”
He said that the restoration work was delayed by at least six months due to the blockade of supplies from India.” “We didn’t have the fuel, the materials… This totally blocked our work for six months,” he said.
Within four months of the earthquake, the focus had shifted on promulgating Nepal’s new constitution, which led to a blockade of supplies from India, which, in turn, delayed the setting up of National Reconstruction Authority (NRA), affecting the restoration and reconstruction process.
As per the Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) undertaken by the government, the earthquakes of last year affected about 2,900 structures with a cultural, historical and religious heritage value. The total estimated damage to tangible heritage is Nepali $169 million and it would require $205 million over six years to restore them.
However, it was only on Monday that Prime Minister K P Oli offered prayers at Swayambhunath, one of the seven UNESCO world heritage sites in Kathmandu valley — all of which were damaged — in a symbolic gesture to mark the beginning of restoration.
Residents, meanwhile, recounted the horrors they saw around many of the destroyed temples. “The structure started swaying precariously and we didn’t know where to run,” said Rudra Ghimire, 45, who has a garments store next to what is now a stub of the iconic nine-storey Dharahara tower in Kathmandu. As Rudra returned in the evening, bodies were still being retrieved; over a 100 bodies were eventually taken out. “People soon started collecting the bricks from the structure as souvenirs,” he said.
“Heritage sites were the worst affected in 14 districts. In this financial year (which began in July 2015), $19.68 million had been approved for restoration but since the constitution of Nation Reconstruction Authority (NRA) was delayed, we will only be restoration 49 structures this year,” said Bhesh Narayan Dahal, Director General, Department of Archaeology.
However, there are already concerns about lengthy procedures and even the quality of restoration work. “The permissions are always delayed as the papers have to go through six-seven ministries,” said Raju Roka, programme manager with Kathmandu Valley Preservation Trust.