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In Nepal, Post-Quake Reconstruction Is Slow


This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.


And I'm David Greene. Let's return to Nepal, a nation still scarred by a deadly earthquakes that hit last April. The monsoon season recently ended there. And for many victims of those quakes, this means a quick reprieve between the summer rains and winter weather to work on their houses. But confusion over aid is slowing progress. Before the rains stopped, Danielle Preiss reported from Gorkha where landslides also add to the problems.

DANIELLE PREISS, BYLINE: In her mud-and-stone kitchen, 50-year-old Prithni Gurung deftly chops wood with a machete to prepare a cooking fire. This is one of the first nights Gurung sleep in her village in Keraujabesi since the earthquake felled every house here. Fearing landslides, the villagers were sleeping in a field 20 minutes away. But after a long rainy season under dripping tarps, they've risked moving back.

PRITHNI GURUNG: (Foreign language spoken).

PREISS: "It's easier being back home," Gurung says. "It was getting really difficult going back and forth." The villagers used $150 from the government and tin sheets from aid agencies to make temporary shelters. Permanent homes will take longer. The government has been slow to distribute a promised $2,000 grant for rebuilding. The grant is given in three installments - the second two only after providing proof that they're following earthquake-safe designs. Only about 60 percent of the estimated 800,000 eligible households have gotten the first $500 so far.

RAM THAPALIYA: It is not the expectation of the people.

PREISS: Ram Thapaliya is the spokesperson for the National Reconstruction Authority, the government body managing rebuilding. Thapaliya says things are now on the right track. The Authority agreed to tack on an additional thousand dollars too, but victims say this is still a fraction of the money they need.

THAPALIYA: If they are very responsible people, responsible family, that - this money could be very helpful.

PREISS: Given the remoteness of some of these mountain villages, everything has to be transported in either on the backs of hired porters or mules. And the costs add up fast.

TONY CASTLEMAN: Even before the earthquake, it was often, like, an eight-day walk to get to the closest market. And now after the earthquake, as well as some of the subsequent landslides, some of the footpaths have been damaged.

PREISS: Tony Castleman is the South Asia director of Catholic Relief Services, which has been helping people enroll in the grant program. There's been a lot of misinformation. Some families plan to use their first $500 in ways that will leave them ineligible for the rest, like paying off loans.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken).

PREISS: Given the absence of newspapers and TV in these mountains, the government is trying to get information out through radio jingles like this one. But this doesn't really help Prithni Gurung and her husband Aita Ram. Their radio is broken, and there's no electricity anyway.

AITA RAM GURUNG: (Through interpreter) We feel really isolated, like we are closed inside our own house.

PREISS: The risk of landslides keeps Aita Ram, a construction worker, stuck at home. In July, a landslide killed three villagers here.

A. R. GURUNG: (Through interpreter) We can't go to the river. We can't go to the forest to bring wood. We can't go to the road. We can't go anywhere. We don't know when the next landslide is going to happen.

PREISS: Landslides hit Nepal every monsoon season, and the risk will go down once the rain stops completely. But Keraujabesi is one of 56 sites the government said should be relocated entirely. Most residents can't afford to move.


PREISS: That night, a rain storm battered down on the tin roofs of Keraujabesi. I lay awake listening to rocks crash down from a nearby landslide. Nights like this terrify Prithni Gurung and make her wonder about the future.

P. GURUNG: (Foreign language spoken).

PREISS: "How can we stay in a place that's scary all the time," she says. For NPR News, I'm Danielle Preiss in Gorkha, Nepal. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Danielle Preiss
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