Nepal’s post-quake reconstruction replicates Gujarat model: Indian envoy

Kathmandu, July 2 (IANS) Nepal is taking a leaf from the Gujarat Disaster Management Authority set up after the 2001 Bhuj earthquake as it recovers from April’s devastating temblors, the Indian ambassador here has said.

“They have decided to set up this authority under the prime minister. I am told that it will work closely with the line ministries who will assist in implementation. I think they have devised a good structure and it is largely based on the Gujarat model. You remember that we had this terrible earthquake in Bhuj some years ago and the Gujarat Disaster Management Authority was set up. I think they have also benefited from that experience,” Ambassador Ranjit Rae told IANS in an interview.

“I think the Gujarat model has been very useful to them. What I can say certainly is that they have taken the Gujarat model into account and the its best practices are being incorporated,” he said.

Answering a query, he said Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken a “very close and very deep interest” in the earthquake relief work. Modi had assumed office as Gujarat chief minister in the year the devastating earthquake struck Bhuj.

“Our teams were here in six hours. The government under our prime minister took very prompt action and that has been greatly appreciated by the Nepalese authorities and Nepalese people. Very senior officials of the government of India who have been closely involved in disaster management have played a very important role in the overall Indian effort to help Nepal following this earthquake,” he said.

Rae said India has provided assistance of Rs.400 crore to Nepal for the first phase of relief work, which was the largest by any country.

He said that for the reconstruction phase, the Indian government has announced an assistance package of $1 billion, again the largest provided by any country.

“If you add our ongoing assistance programmes and programmes anticipated in the next five years, the total package will be about $2 billion. This is the largest assistance we have extended to Nepal and the I think it is the largest support that we have offered to a foreign country after a natural disaster. This has been a major effort of the government of India to help people of Nepal,” the envoy said.

He said India had identified eight sectors, including shelter, education, health, roads, power, heritage and disaster management, to provide assistance, adding that the new structures coming up in the Himalayan nation should be earthquake resilient.

“We will now work with the Nepal government to identify specific projects which can be taken up in each of these sectors,” Rae said.

“The most important thing is to ensure that you get value for money, that the assistance is spent properly in a transparent way, that it benefits the people in distress and goes to areas that have been the most affected,” he added.

Asked about reports expressing apprehensions about Nepal’s capacity to use international aid, he said it “was a very genuine fear” as the expenditure under the capital budget of the government over the previous years has been sub-optimal.

“There was this feeling among the donor community that if they pledge large amounts of money, will the government of Nepal be able to spend it? The Nepal government has taken very significant steps to address this problem and an empowered authority has been created that will be given special powers to speed up implementation,” he said.

Asked about his personal experience of the earthquake, he said it was terrible.

“It seemed like the house was spinning. The earthquake went on for a minute. It was quite a scary moment. After that we had several aftershocks again. It was not something that one would like to go through again,” Rae said.

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