Warning Kathmandu of tough times ahead, Indian experts said on Thursday that reconstruction of a crippled Nepal could take at least five years and last week’s fierce earthquake may have set the country back by up to $10 billion.
Speaking to HT exclusively after chairing a meeting of top Indian officials involved in disaster relief, the Indian ambassador to Nepal, Ranjit Rae, said New Delhi was thinking one step ahead and preparing a strategy to assist with the Himalayan nation’s recovery.
“We have started thinking about the colossal task ahead and will speak to the Nepalese government about it. They haven’t even started thinking about it as they are consumed with relief work,” he said.
The Indian rescue effort is at its fag end, with focus now shifting to stepping up relief measures and the question of recovery being mulled by a specially-constituted task force.
With tempers rising in Kathmandu’s streets over the slow pace of aid delivery, Rae said it was crucial for Nepal to “build capacity to absorb international help” that would pour in during the reconstruction phase — the most complex after a disaster of this magnitude.
“Hamara roti-beti ka sambandh hai (we eat together and inter-marry). India will always be the first responder if Nepal is in crisis,” the ambassador said. More than 40% of the Indian external affairs ministry’s budget is earmarked for two countries — Nepal and Bhutan.
Even creating the conditions for actual recovery to begin will be a protracted process. “Transitional recovery could take 18 months,” said Kamal Kishore, member of the National Disaster Management Authority.
He said Nepal’s recon-struction would take at least five years, pegging the loss caused by the killer quake at a conservative $5-10 billion, citing “predictions made by some damage assessment models.”
Kishore is part of an interministerial team — headed by an additional secretary — coordinating multiple aspects of Indian humanitarian assistance and also poring over possible roles that New Delhi could play in Nepal’s reconstruction.
Rae said Nepal would have to put mechanisms in place in coordination with other countries to get back on the road to recovery.
However, the country may have to live with the scars left by the destruction of heritage buildings and temples.
Full coverage: Nepal earthquake