Apr 272017

These scenes from Palanchowk illustrate the situation right now in so many other villages.

One question rises above all others on the 2-year anniversary of the earthquake in Nepal: how could it take so long to distribute the government reconstruction grant? Until now, less than 2,000 of the over 600,000 eligible households who lost their homes in the April 24, 2015, disaster have received more than the 1st instalment – a mere 50,000 rs. – an amount which can barely cover the costs of building the foundation for any new house.

Most victim households in the worst affected districts merely got the 1st instalment: 50,000 rs. (click picture to enlarge)

Shortly after the earthquake, the government high-handedly promised every victim household a total reconstruction grant of 200,000 rs., recently raised to even 300,000 rs., and yet hundreds of thousands of households still live in tin shacks unable to afford building a new house. The situation is more or less the same across the fourteen worst affected districts, as shown opposite. Many of these households – already badly tested by the elements summer and winter – will face a third monsoon under a tin roof.

Political infighting over who’s to chair the NRA is another reason for the delay in grant distribution

The official reason for the government’s delay in distributing the grant starts with problems of making an ”exact count” of the victims. Then comes difficulties in issuing ”victim’s ID cards” and a troubled procedure of releasing the grants only through local bank accounts. Along the way, political in-fighting over who was to chair the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) only made matters worse. Can these problems, though, explain the whole delay in distributing the reconstruction grant? Well, it’s hard to judge or know for sure. But it’s certain that the earthquake has proven to be a prolonged disaster:

Living under a tin roof will continue for the far majority of victim households for still some months to come!

Jan 172017

Waiting for the NRA’s reconstruction grant: one of 600,000+ households who still got little or nothing to rebuild their homes

The formation of Nepal Reconstruction Authority (NRA) in the fall of 2015 was as political as the creation of many other “high-level” commissions and agencies in Kathmandu. Barely had donors pledged over 4 billion dollars in reconstruction grants and loans before the main parties started to bicker over who was to chair the NRA. The CEO of the new agency would come to manage – together with the Prime Minister – a huge sum of money. Was it to be Nepali Congress’ (NC’s) man, someone closer to the UML, or maybe someone affiliated with the Maoist party, or…? Continue reading »

Oct 092016

Charikot before the town was devastated by the earthquake in 2015

Charikot before the town was devastated by the earthquake in 2015

Charikot, the capital of Dolakha, was devastated by the earthquake in 2015, but it’s coming back to life – also when it comes to the local tourism sector. Situated just five kilometres from the epicentre of the second massive tremor, most hotels and guesthouses in this scenic town collapsed and were turned into rubbles. Indeed, the massive destruction left many locals with little hope to rebuild. But tourism entrepreneurs have started to pick up the pieces and to again turn Charikot into a growing tourist destination. Continue reading »

Apr 042016

The NRA still moving at snail speed: most of the 600,000 households made homeless by the earthquake are now facing another monsoon in makeshift tin shelters.

The NRA still moving along at snail speed: most of the 600,000 households made homeless by the earthquake are now facing another monsoon in makeshift tin shelters.

The National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) just moved on to “phase II” in rebuilding houses post-quake. The NRA has decided to release the first installment of the house reconstruction grant – that is, 50,000 rs. out of 200,000 rs. per household – but only in eight of the fourteen worst affected districts and merely in one VDC in each! Why not more!? Well, officially yet a survey on the number of earthquake victims has to be completed first. To the over 600,000 victims that are now facing a second monsoon in a tin shelter, hope must be at its lowest…

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Jan 132016

The NRA just allocated 290 million rs. to create seven local offices under it - is that a "good thing" or...?

The NRA just allocated 290 million rs. to create seven local offices under it – is that a “good thing” or…?

The National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) which finally “took off” on December 26 after a six months delay has now allocated some of the USD 4,4 billion supposed to be spent as quickly as possible on rebuilding houses and public infrastructure. So, what’s the allocation going to be spent on – so far an amount of 290 million rupees? Well, in one word, “administration”: the NRA is setting up seven local offices which it needs to plan and implement the reconstruction. Continue reading »

Jan 122016

"Many students are down with the cold", says local principal, Ramji Shrestha, at typical TLC built of tin sheets in Ramechap.

“Many students are down with the cold”, says local principal, Ramji Shrestha, working at typical TLC (picture) built of tin sheets in Ramechap.

Students going to school in Temporary Learning Centers (TLCs) – built after the earthquake – have started to fall ill in worrying numbers. Most TLCs are built of tin sheets without any insulation, so wind and humid cold air easily get inside. As winter bites, going to school has become a health hazard! In Ramechap, scores of children are in hospital with the cold; in Bhaktapur the situation is the same. The need for reconstruction is acute – but work is slow! Continue reading »

Jan 112016

"I keep my baby wrapped around my back most of the time, so that she don’t get cold." Pisang Lama, Ramechap

“I keep my baby wrapped around my back most of the time, so that she don’t get cold.” Pisang Lama, Ramechap

Ramechap district is freezing and locals are struggling to keep warm as temperatures are dropping below zero. Pisang Lama, 31, is just one of thousands living in temporary shelters completely unfit for winter. Like in most of the earthquake affected districts, also in this area south-east of Kathmandu the ruins of the old mud and stone houses have been replaced with tin shelters. There’s no insulation and no real protection from the elements. Lama explains: Continue reading »

Dec 292015

Waiting for the NRA: woman in front of a typical shelter (Kavre)

Waiting for the NRA: woman in front of a typical shelter (Kavre)

Out in the districts hit by the earthquake in April, locals have long-since started to build temporary shelters. How temporary – or permanent – those shelters are going to be is an open question. The answer, though, lies in no small part with the government and it’s National Reconstruction Authority (NRA). The government has already released 15,000 rs. (around USD 200) to every household whose home was destroyed – but they have pledged a lot more. Indeed, USD 4,4 billion are in the pipeline for reconstruction! However, the NRA, tasked with distributing all this money, has not really started working yet. Continue reading »

Oct 032015

Living under a tin roof is not easy - and many are missing their old home. Belimaya is just one of those mourning the loss of her old house...

What’s it like to lose your house? To many villagers in the earthquake affected districts, it was indeed a huge economic setback. It costs at least 500,000 rs. – or around 8,000 USD – just to build a traditional house in clay and stone, at least in Palanchok, Kavre. Building a modern house in brick and concrete easily runs up in three times that amount! But besides the economic loss, the destruction of one’s house – to many the home of not only one but several generations – is still a deeply emotional issue. In the video opposite, Belimaya Shrestha, 64, shares her feelings. Continue reading »

Sep 212015

Life under a tin roof is not easy. But by September, villagers in Palanchok - like in so many other villages - were starting to get organised. Watch the video to see how.

Villagers in Palanchok, Kavre, were hoping for the best. A Japanese-funded NGO pledging in May to rebuild 60 to 65 houses, however, did not return. It did clear some rubble with a dozer, following the villagers’ hard work of manually demolishing their house ruins. But after that no NGO showed up. By September, everybody was busy setting up temporary tin shelters instead. Watch how a family is getting back into some type of everyday rythm in the video opposite – it’s life under a tin roof, so common in thousands of villages at this time.

Watch the same family working hard and full of hope here, in May when the NGO had arrived. Continue reading »

Aug 092015

Walking through devastated Khokani village

Walking carefully through devastated Khokana village

Kokhana village – dating back to the Malla period – remains deserted and lifeless. Located eight kilometres south of Kathmandu, it has become a ghost town. The houses that didn’t collapse in the earthquake are kept erect only by heavy timber beams, and most are so cracked that nobody from the so recently busy Newari community dares entering them. Continue reading »

Jul 252015

Family during a break in the rubble of their destroyed house, telling about the NGO that might come...

Palanchok is just one of thousands of villages trying to move on after the earthquake. Expecting an NGO with Japanese funding to come and rebuild their houses, villagers are in a rush to clear their land of rubble and debris. We followed one family on a long day of hard work as they were removing stones and wooden beams from what’s left of their home. Staying under a tarpaulin – five weeks after the earthquake – they were full of hope that the NGO would indeed return and start building them a new house. It’s more hope than most villagers are afforded – but will the NGO really deliver? We’ll soon bring more from Palanchok. Until then, here’s the family, clearing the rubble with nothing else than hand tools.

Jul 242015
Emergency grant before the rain starts: 15,000 rs. to build proper temporary shelter

Emergency grant before the rain starts: 15,000 Nrs. to build proper temporary shelter

In early May the government pledged 200,000 Nrs. to every family who lost their house in the earthquake. Shortly after, it was decided to quickly hand out an initial 15,000 Nrs. – as an immediate emergency grant – for building temporary shelters before the monsoon. It wasn’t a huge amount but enough to buy zink sheets and get a roof over the head, and so it seemed to solve one of the most urgent matters in the earthquake aftermath: to provide at least some shelter from the elements before the rain started. But then the program stalled! Continue reading »

May 202015
"Clapping like hands" - the devious crack that narrowed in but goes deep under the hill...

“Clapping like hands” – the devious crack that narrowed in but goes deep under the hill…

Cracks are warnings of more landslides to come, and in Palanchok, Kavre, they fear the worst. On the ridge in ward 6, everybody’s worried about the cracks that opened up during the quake. Birman Pahari saw it happen: “In seconds my workshop collapsed. I managed to run out in time – but then the hill started splitting. It was clapping like two hands. The two sides were vibrating at different speed, closing and separating… and the crack was wide enough for a child to fall into it.” The gap then narrowed but it’s deep, and only one of many on the ridge. When the rain starts pouring in, will the ridge be undermined and come crashing down the slope in a huge landslide? Villagers are taking no chances – they are relocating. The same threatening situation is facing so many other villages. It’s a disaster bound to happen, predicts a nurse who just saw hundreds of similar cracks from a helicopter in Dolakha. The race is on to detect the danger before the rain starts…also in Palanchok.

May 112015

Before the earthquake hit Palanchowk village in Kavre: Dashain happiness

Before the earthquake hit Palanchok village in Kavre: Dashain happiness some year back

The ridge in Palanchok, Kavre district, has been our favourite destination for weekend trips for years, and we’ll always be coming back. But it will never be the same – not in the near future, at least. Situated on a beautiful ridge with green valleys on both sides, Palanchok is home to a sacred goddess and to locals who always welcome visitors with warm hospitality. Now, 90 percent of the village is destroyed. Staying warm and dry during the cold nights, when the ridge is covered by low clouds, is the most immediate issue. Rebuilding the houses is an enormous challenge long-term. These images of before and after the earthquake illustrate why. Continue reading »

May 102015


It’s just one of thousands of villages. But it’s the one we have visited the most. The earthquake destroyed almost all the houses and left the rest damaged. What next?!

It was a beautiful, thriving village – until 25 April when most was turned into rubble. But already now, some villagers are trying to rebuild – what support will they get from the outside, how much, and how fast?!


The rain is coming! There is little shelter, a crack has split the ridge, landslides may await. How will locals get through the hardship – and how will they ever rebuild?!

We’ll follow the struggle for recovery in Palanchok over the next many months – not only because we know this village well, but also as it illustrates the plight of many others.

Continue reading »

May 012015
Waiting for help: one of many villages hit hard in Sindupalchowk

Waiting for help: one of many villages hit hard in Sindupalchowk

Chief District Officer of Sindhupalchowk, Krishna Prasad Gyawali, just abandoned his post. It’s not “dereliction of duty”, he explains, but a call for help! On Wednesday, four days into the earthquake aftermath, one of the worst hit districts had still not received the most basic relief aid – like tents, food and medicine supplies. Thousands of locals are without homes, many have lost their food granaries, and all Gyawali could tell them was: “I can’t help you – come back later”. Scores of villagers who just lost everything started protesting, and now Gyawali refuses to return until the government delivers. Continue reading »

Apr 282015

Searching for survivors in Kathmandu: rescuers have only just started to reach the districts

Searching for survivors in Kathmandu: rescuers have only just started to reach the districts

The tragedy that has hit Nepal is still hard to fathom. The loss of life, the injuries, the terror under the endless aftershocks, the destruction of homes, public buildings and centuries of cultural heritage… On the night of the quake on 25 april, we wrote on facebook: “Our thoughts and heart-felt condolences go out to all those whose lives were struck by tragedy today. Maybe Nepal will eventually recover from this – but the way it feels right now, it will never be the same… Lots of prayers that no more tremors will strike tonight.” However, the tremors and aftershocks still go on, predicted to continue at least for a week, maybe even months. Meanwhile, the full scope of loss of life, injuries and physical destruction outside Kathmandu valley remains unknown. Continue reading »