Post-Earthquake Urban Housing Recovery in Nepal: Challenges & Recommendations (To contribute towards developing an urban recovery strategy)

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Executive Summary

Nepal was struck by an earthquake of 7.6 magnitude on 25 April 2015, followed by multiple aftershocks - the strongest earthquakes to hit the country in 80 years, causing widespread damage to life, shelter and livelihoods. Hundreds of thousands of buildings, including 1,046,019 private houses, were damaged, with data showing that around 40% of the damage occurred in urban municipalities. In 2016, the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) was formed with the mandate to lead the reconstruction efforts of damaged structures in a sustainable, resilient and planned manner.

As a first step to extend support for housing recovery, Partnership Agreement (PA) is signed between beneficiaries and local government. It is remarkable that as of January 2021, within a short time span of just five years, more than three quarters (77%) of the households who had signed the PA, have completed reconstruction, and many are well underway. This achievement can be attributed to a coordinated recovery response comprising NRA’s tranche-based financial grant support, the extensive mobilization of engineers and capacity building of masons, the untiring recovery facilitation efforts of social mobilizers, an effective grievance redressal mechanism, and a comprehensive Socio-technical Assistance (STA) package.

While considerable progress has been made in housing recovery by the NRA and other government entities, urban housing recovery has been slower than rural housing recovery. The issues hindering urban recovery are complex, and often interlinked. This study provides a detailed diagnosis of urban recovery issues; its findings are validated by qualitative and quantitative methods, partners’ experiences and existing research. It supports the analysis of the scope of the problem and highlights possible entry points from which to elaborate a set of recommendations to overcome existing barriers. Additionally, it aims to guide the direction and focus of further research for developing Nepal’s urban earthquake housing recovery strategy, with the aspiration of contributing to a greater long-term urban development vision for Nepal.

Urban recovery study-Qualitative and Quantitative was conducted to understand the key issues hindering households’ reconstruction, and the extent to which they have hindered households’ reconstruction; as such, it was conducted using a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods. The qualitative research, completed in seven earthquake affected districts in January 2020, used Focused Group Discussions (FGD) and Key Informant Interviews (KII). Its results helped to identify broader urban recovery challenges. Subsequently, with data obtained from the qualitative study, a quantitative questionnaire survey using a stratified random sampling method was conducted in six earthquake affected districts in August 2020 to validate the hitherto raised issues and their relative impact at the beneficiary level. This survey was designed in collaboration with the NRA, Central Level Project Implementation Unit (CLPIU) Building, HRRP and UR- TWG. The quantitative study was conducted with a sample of 818 beneficiaries whose housing reconstruction has not progressed beyond the first and second tranches. This study was executed in a limited geographical area, with a subset of beneficiaries living in urban areas. Throughout the study, multiple further field observations were noted that were outside the scope of this study but will require further in-depth consideration and research.

This study has contributed to the identification and analysis of urban recovery issues with the hope that its findings will further guide conceptual discussions among stakeholders to help refine relevant policies, acts, rules, and regulations. The study identified following key issues to be hindering urban recovery: access to finance; variances in land ownership and related legal implications; compliance with heritage norms; gaps in communication and flow of information; STA elements that are not responsive to the needs of urban areas; retrofitting in urban areas; and unmet needs unique to vulnerable groups.