Exactly five years ago today, at 11:56 morning, on the 25th of April 2015, a devastating earthquake hit Nepal with epicenter at Barpak village of Gorkha district. About 9000 people lost their lives and the country had to bear the economic loss worth 700 billion Nepali rupees due to the earthquake and successive aftershocks. On this solemn occasion today, I would like to remember all brothers and sisters who lost their precious lives in that devastating earthquake, and pay my heartfelt tribute to them.
In the aftermath of the disaster, there was quite a bleak outlook. Many doubted would it be possible to rebuild hundreds of thousands of private houses, so many public infrastructures, and numerous religious and cultural heritages of archeological importance. People wondered whether we could make our fallen landmark watch-tower, the ‘Dharahara’, stand on the same ground again? Others argued, is it possible at this time to re-plan our city infrastructures in a way today’s New Road was planned and built after the Great Nepal Earthquake of 1934.
I would like to recall that we, the Nepali people, came spontaneously together, united for cooperation and assisting one another in the immediate aftermath of the quake. Starting with our focus on immediate rescue and relief efforts, we then embarked on a reconstruction campaign. We launched the reconstruction campaign with the slogan: ‘Better than before, and stronger’.
Now, reflecting back on our works in the past five years, many earthquake-resilient and attractive structures are there for us to see as our successful reconstruction efforts. We have completed reconstruction of more than half-a-million private houses alone. Additional 190,000 houses are under reconstruction. Nine integrated settlement construction projects have already been complete. Additional 70 such settlement plans have been approved and are in the phase of reconstruction. Planned and beautiful settlements are being built across the country. A total of 5,598 school buildings have been rebuilt.
Reconstruction of 669 health-services buildings has been complete. More such 145 buildings are under reconstruction. Among the reconstruction works in the heritage sector, out of 170 cultural and archeological structures 101 such structures have been complete. Additional 54 heritage structures are being rebuilt. While 349 government buildings have been reconstructed already, 49 more are under reconstruction.
More than 4000 people who settled themselves in insecure locations after the earthquake have now been provided settlement with allocation of necessary land in secure areas. About 9000 landless people and slum-dwellers are provided with land to enable them build their own houses.
The projects to rebuild our historical landmark tower, Dharahara and Rani Pokhari (Queen’s Pond) into modern and beautiful tourist attractions are underway. The re-construction of Dharahara has reached the tenth floor already.
We have achieved 91 per cent progress in the area of heritage reconstruction, including those completed and those under construction. In 32 districts heritage reconstruction works have been complete up to 43.7 per cent. In Kathmandu valley, 59 per cent heritage construction works have been complete so far. These are not ordinary feats for a country in a situation like ours.
Had it not been for the ongoing global pandemic of Corona Virus in the meantime, we could have certainly added two more floors to the Dharahara under construction. We planned to handover to the public the Malla-era cultural heritage of the people on this very day today. We also could have proudly inaugurated the reconstructed Durbar High School, the first-ever school which ushered in educational revival in Nepal. Reconstruction and retrofitting of the main part of Shinghadurbar Secretariat Complex could have been complete already and by now we would be preparing to transfer back the office of the Prime Minister and Council of Minister at its previous location.
I believe the concept and methodology of reconstruction and rehabilitation we have adopted are of world class and could be adopted as models around the world. All these were possible only due to the spirit of cooperation and collaboration, as well as a strong sense of commitment and undenting resolve of you the ordinary Nepali people. I take this opportunity to extend my sincere thanks to all who have contributed to the reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts: local community, political parties, people’s representatives, construction workers, technicians, public servants, media people and national and international friends and partners.
The ongoing pandemic has clearly reminded us that the fight against invisible enemy is much more complex than the task of rebuilding visible physical structures. Together with the rest of the world we too are facing another disaster, this time a global pandemic. For the same reason the whole country has to be under lockdown for more than a month now.
We all are acutely aware of the pains of lockdown and its serious impact on the ongoing reconstruction and rehabilitation work. I am confident that we will be able to move ahead with calm resolve and indomitable will in our ongoing fight against Corona Virus as we were able to do the same in the aftermath of the earthquake. With right policy and collaborative efforts, as well as by taking necessary measures for resource management and mobilization, we will come out victorious in our ongoing fight.
From the very onset of the crisis, we have been putting all our efforts to contain and control the Virus, taking utmost precaution. We have been addressing all the challenges arising out of this unprecedented situation with right policy measures, timely and appropriate decisions under a clear plan of action. It is due to the cooperation, support and utmost precaution of you all that, so far, there has not been a single loss of life in Nepal, whereas hundreds of thousands of lives have already been lost around the world. This is mainly the result of timely and appropriate containment measures adopted by the Government, as well as the unity and understanding of the Nepali people. I would like to sincerely thank all those who have been contributing, directly or indirectly, to the campaign of containing and controlling the Corona Virus pandemic, while suffering themselves tremendous hardships during these trying times.
Once again, I appeal to all my countrymen to be united in the fight against Corona Virus in order to save lives of all Nepali people, in the spirit of post-earthquake rescue, relief, reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts back in 2015.
At present, the whole economy is in standstill due to the effects of ongoing lockdown. We have no other alternatives except moving ahead by facing the crisis while exerting all our efforts to minimize the negative impacts of lockdown in our economy. The ongoing lockdown has also affected the remaining post-earthquake reconstruction works to some extent. It is important that we should resume the stalled reconstruction works by making necessary arrangements including adoption of precautionary and preventive health measures. The Government is serious and mindful of its role for coordination and necessary management in order to ensure that there is no further delay in the reconstruction works.
On this solemn occasion, I would like to assure you all that we will be able to successfully complete the remaining works on post-earthquake reconstruction in a planned manner.
K P Sharma Oli