Homeowner Oman Singh Thapa of Gorkha has decided to make use of his own skills as a craftsman and materials salvaged from his earthquake-stricken house in rebuilding anew

Oman Singh Thapa was among the thousands of people in Nepal who lost their homes to the 2015 earthquake. Oman’s house in Gorkha’s Sahid Lakhan rural municipality had been damaged beyond repair in the quake, and his only option was to demolish the structure entirely and rebuild anew. This, however, would prove easier said than done: Oman, like many other homeowners in his community, was confused about how to access the grants provided by the Government and how exactly to proceed with the reconstruction process in general.

These problems were compounded by the fact that Oman was just one of three family members who were earning an income to support their eight-member household. So, when he finally received the first tranche of the reconstruction grant, he was eager to begin work on the new structure. But the pace was exceedingly sluggish; with monsoon rains hitting the country, all available masons were occupied in planting paddy. “Work came to a complete halt; there was no one willing to work in construction,” he says.

Tired of waiting, Oman decided to take matters into his own hands. He was, after all, a craftsman himself. Under the guidance of engineers from the municipality and the Nepal Housing Reconstruction Project (NHRP)—implemented by UNDP with funding support from the Government of India—he started by sifting through the materials left over from his demolished house, and salvaging what he could.

 “I made use of my own skills and began working on the wood while simultaneously supervising the few available masons who were helping me,” Oman says. Though he has invested a sum of around Rs 0.5 million on his new house, he says the costs would have been far higher if he had not managed to retrieve and reuse the old stones, CGI sheets and wood from the wreckage. The foundation of the new structure has been made entirely of stones from the old house, for instance. “I’m guessing it would’ve cost an extra Rs. 0.2 million overall if I had to purchase all new construction material,” he says.

Thapa also fondly recalls how one of the first masons to work with him has now become a trained Awas Nirmaan Saathi working under UNDP. “Nanda Bahadur was one of the best masons in the area, so it’s reassuring to know that he is now in charge of supervising so many cases of rebuilding, and helping to promote safer reconstruction.”

Thapa has presently applied to receive the third instalment of the Government’s grant, with which he hopes he can finish the house. “I’ll be a happy man once we are able to move the family into our new place, and we can put the disaster behind us once and for all,” Oman says.

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