Reconstruction In The Aftermath Of The Nepal Earthquake

List of Prime Ministers of Nepal
List of Prime Ministers of Nepal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There is no such thing called a prepared nation. When Hurricane Katrina hit the shores of New Orleans, America reeled for years. Nepal as the poorest country outside of Africa started out with a weak infrastructure, not just physical, but also political. You have to have some compassion for the poor roads in a poor country. Similarly you have to have some compassion for a weak, inefficient, perhaps corrupt government. But then the international community also has to introspect. In the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, $13 billion was raised, and there is not much to show for it right now.

This tragedy, the biggest in the country's history, having caused damages to the tune of half its GDP, can be a point beyond which lie years of despair, or it can be a take off point where the country and its global friends decide to take the country to new, unprecedented heights. The people and the political leadership have a role to play, and the international community has a role to play.

I, for one, am for treating this tragedy as a departure point for taking the country and its peoples to new heights of economic vibrancy. There have been countries that have done that in the aftermath of devastating wars and natural calamities. That path requires the Government of Nepal and the global community to subject themselves to the highest standards in online transparency for all deliberations, all plans, all executions of those plans, all expenditures, all services delivered, all projects started and completed, all watchdog roles. Done right that transparency could end up being the number one source for needed funds as ordinary people in multitude countries might donate as time goes on.

The second component is a need for boldness of vision. There has to be a realization that there is no going back to the way things were. A new future has to be imagined.

The political leaders of the country need to finalize the details of federalism and announce elections to the state and local governments in November. I think a compromise position would be to retain the 75 districts and create six states named Janakpur, Lumbini, Rapti, Koshi, Gandaki, and Karnali. The absence of elected governments at local, district and state levels makes the hard task of reconstruction rather impossible. After agreeing on the constitution the political parties should form an all party national government for the remainder of this parliament's term. I think Baburam Bhattarai, the Maoist leader, is best qualified to lead. He also happens to hail from the district that was the earthquake's epicenter. But since his party is only the third largest, it should be willing to make major compromises in the process like giving up the idea of ethnic names for federal states, giving up the idea of a directly elected president, and agreeing to fewer berths in the cabinet than it might otherwise get.

Boldness of vision requires that you decide to shift the capital from Kathmandu to the Terai plains directly south where you would create a new megacity. My suggested name for it would be Hipat, where people from Himal, Pahad, and Terai live together. This would allow for new homes for millions of people.

Food, water, medicine, and temporary shelters are needed still. This monsoon season will likely see the worst landslides the country has ever seen. And the country remains unprepared. That is the first order of business. But simultaneously some longer term plans have to be made and executed upon.

This proposed new megacity would be a grid city of 200 square kilometers, with four lane one way roads every 100 meters.

A road every 100 meters in a city that is 20 kilometers by 10 kilometers makes for about 300 roads. Every country in the world should be approached to sponsor one, and the road would be named after the sponsoring country. Some countries might not be able to chip in, some might build more than one, maybe five, maybe 10. If a country builds more than one, the roads after the first would be named after its biggest cities. The 200 square kilometers of land that would be acquired would be valued at the new city price, and apartments of equivalent values would be given to the landholders.

People in places like Gorkha or Sindhupalchok or even Kathmandu who have lost their homes would be encouraged to move en masse into this city. You would hand over your land and house at the market rate to the government, and in the case of the hill districts they would be turned into forests. For your land and house in Kathmandu you would get credit at perhaps below market rates since the land is so expensive in that city. You would get equivalent amounts of living space in the new city. So if you have a six room house in Kathmandu, you would hand it to the government, and you would get six rooms worth of apartments in the new city. The government would turn around and sell your house to companies in the tourism industry that would remake them as retrofitted lodges for tourists built in the traditional styles.

The garden buildings in the new megacity would be built by private real estate companies from Nepal, India, China, Bangladesh and wherever. They get the land from the government. They have to build within a year or two. Each building must be at least 10 floors. The ground floor and four other floors go to the government to dole out to the original landowners, to the displaced families in the hill districts and Kathmandu. Each building's rooftop would be covered with solar panels. That might generate sufficient electricity for the city.

This city would need a canal from the Narayani river for drinking water, a fast track tunnel road from Kathmandu to Hetauda, the Nijgadh international airport completed in a hurry, and the eastern Terai developed as a feeder region.  A railway track in mid-Terai, and a highway by the Nepal India border, and a Hipat-Janakpur-Patna-Kolkata Industrial Corridor.

If there will be a million displaced people, most of them farmers, many of them can be employed by the government for upto three months a year to engage in massive reforestation schemes all across the country. The outer ring of the new megacity perhaps should be set aside for textile factories where they can work. The city itself will generate employment opportunities.

The beauty of this suggestion is it keeps the costs low. The major expenses to be provided through foreign aid stay at the big infrastructure level. Otherwise the city pretty much pays for itself.

If you can pack 10,000 people per square kilometer, that's two million people in 200 square kilometers. If you can pack 20,000 people per square kilometer, that's four million people. One million earthquake displaced, three million new residents. If you double the size of the city in five years, because it was such a good idea, next thing you know fully one third of the country is living in this one city, and that is an environmentally friendly proposition. It is much easier to provide services to residents of one big city than to 4,000 scattered villages in remote mountains. Much of Nepal's hills and mountains need to become thick forest land.

Summary: Foreign Aid On Reconstruction Should Focus on Big Infrastructure Projects
  • A road every 100 meters in a new megacity that is 20 kilometers by 10 kilometers
  • 300-500 electric buses to run on those roads round the clock 
  • Rapid completion of the Kathmandu Hetauda fast track tunnel road 
  • Water canal from the Narayani river to the city
  • A train track in mid eastern Terai
  • A highway along the Nepal India border
  • A Hipat-Janakpur-Patna-Kolkata Industrial Corridor
एउटा नया ठुलो महानगर बनाउन सकिन्छ
१० लाख मानिस का लागि रोजगार
नेपाल राज्यको संविधान 2015
वन फंडानी नगरी बनाउनु पर्छ महानगर हिपत
हिपत-जनकपुर-पटना-कोलकाता Industrial Corridor
हिपत, जनकपुर, कोलकाता
Hipat Megacity
Elon Musk सँग बाबुराम ले गफ गर्नु पर्ने भो
हिपत, काठमाण्डु


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