Charting futures: Free drawing preparation initiative for safer reconstruction

Oct 4, 2017

Photos: CDRMP/UNDP

UNDP recently joined hands with the Chautara Sangachowkgadhi Municipality in Sindhupalchowk to guide earthquake-affected homeowners in the district towards safer and more resilient reconstruction

In the 2015 earthquakes, few districts had suffered the scale of loss and destruction that Sindhupalchowk sustained—with over 3,500 casualties, many thousands injured and close to 97 percent of houses razed to the ground. Reconstruction of these ruined structures was therefore bound to be a mammoth task, and the pace of progress on that front has been slow, owing in part to the density of administrative procedures involved. Homeowners looking to rebuild are often baffled by the technicalities that need to be considered before applying for a permit to initiate construction.

Among affected areas within the district is the Chautara Sangachowkgadhi Municipality, where thousands of homes are yet to be resurrected. Given that majority of houses in the municipality had been of the stone masonry variety in the past, homeowners here have little idea of how to fulfill the basic criteria of the municipal permit process, starting with the design of the houses themselves.

One such resident is Panchamaya Tamang of the former Kubhinde VDC, who had been at a total loss about where to begin when it came to rebuilding her damaged home—what kind of technology she should opt for, and where she should go to seek advice on the matter. The 45-year-old says that losing her home was already hard enough; she was wary of the added hassle and costs of hiring someone to prepare the designs.

This is reiterated by Nirmala BK, another local, who has been living in a flimsy temporary shelter since her house was brought down by the disaster. “When you’re struggling to keep things together as is, deciding to spend a few thousand rupees on an engineer is a hard, and sometimes impossible, decision to make,” she says.  

It was with these sorts of difficulties in mind that the municipality, in collaboration with UNDP’s Comprehensive Disaster Risk Management Programme (CDRMP)—with funding from the Humanitarian Aid Department of the European Commission (ECHO) and technical support from the Department of Architecture at the Institute of Engineering (IoE) in Pulchowk—recently conducted a Free Drawing Preparation Initiative for Safer Reconstruction in ward no. 4 of the municipality. The idea was to connect residents here to students from the IoE, who would counsel them and help them prepare drawings of their future dwellings—under the guidance of their supervisors, municipal officials as well as trained masons—as per the homeowners’ needs and as per the requirements of the municipality, entirely free of cost.

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And so, the “Resilient Communities through Building Back Better” project brought 45 students to the Kalikadevi Secondary School in Chautara Sangachowkgadhi, where they were stationed from 14 to 18 September in the service of local homeowners. At the end of the five days, the initiative was found to have benefitted 226 needy households in the area. Given that having such drawings prepared by hired professionals can cost anywhere between Rs. 7,000 to 30,000 each, the students’ efforts was estimated to have saved locals a total of over Rs. 22,00,000.

Panchamaya and Nirmala were both ecstatic when they, along with the others, were handed the prepared drawings. “It was great to have all these young people come here, talk to us and try to understand our lifestyles, and help us through something we’ve been struggling with for so long,” Nirmala says. “We are very thankful for the effort.”

Adding to this, Mayor of Chautara Sangachowkgadhi Municipality, Aman Singh Tamang, and Ward Chairperson, Chudamani Nepal, expressing thanks for UNDP’s support in the initiative, talked about how important a step it represented in helping the reconstruction process gain necessary momentum. Tamang also assured the municipality’s commitment to facilitating speedy approval of the drawings, and its support for any future endeavors of this kind.

And it wasn’t just the locals who benefitted from the experience. Lecturer at IoE, Inu Pradhan touched upon what it meant to the students to have worked in the field in this way, and the practical skills they gained that they couldn’t have done in the classroom. “Working among locals, working in a group, learning about how other people live and their needs, as well as the technical challenges of operating in a rural setting—these have all offered valuable real-world lessons to these young people,” she says.

For more photos of the five-day programme, visit https://www.facebook.com/pg/UNDPNepal/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1525316157561600

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