Onlinekhabar caught up with Sushil Gyawali, newly-appointed chief executive officer of the Reconstruction Authority, to know a bit about him and his plans for the reconstruction of a country that suffered extensive damage in April 25 and May 12 mega quakes:
The media does not know me. From 1997 till 2003, I worked as project chief of the Butwal municipality. Butwal has become an international-level city. People (of Butwal) know me and my work. After that, I left the permanent job, worked for United Nations projects and then as executive secretary of Municipal Association of Nepal. My job mostly involved working with donors. I landed a job at Town Development Fund, associated with German funded projects, twice, through open competition. The nature of my work was such that it did not need media glare. And that meant the public not knowing you.
About landing the latest job
I had never thought I would get this job. While engaging in relief works after the quakes, I thought about preparing a long-term reconstruction plan. Based on experience and findings of different studies, I made a framework for reconstruction as a volunteer. I showed the framework – that also proposed relevant laws and structural guidelines — to then Chief Secretary Leela Mani Poudel and got some suggestions from him. I had to present this plan at some events as well. Then chief executive of the RA (created through an ordinance and dissolved later), Govinda Raj Pokhrel, called me too and I offered my suggestions to him. In the meantime, several likely names for this job came to the fore. Amid this, I was called to make a presentation on the framework in the presence of Prime Minister and others. Then I got a call, informing me about his appointment as Reconstruction Authority CEO. This surprised me too.
On rumours that he got this job through friends in high places
Let’s not talk about the rumours. In the first place, I had not made the framework with the motive to land some job. In fact, I had wanted to assist the Reconstruction Authority as a volunteer but ended up landing the authority CEO’s job. Finance Minister Bishnu Poudel and Industries Minister Som Prasad Pandey are from my home district, but that’s just a coincidence. I am not someone, who has worked closely with any political party. And I am not a high-profile person. I don’t have any other ability save discharging assigned duties effectively. In the capacity of RA CEO, I will discharge my duties by rising above politics and disputes.
About his duties and how he plans to discharge them
The RA has taken shape at a time when the winter has already gripped the country. Houses will not materialise just by handing over money to the people. Because of the blockade, it is not possible to supply raw materials (required for construction works). I have a challenging job. The RA should have taken shape early on and it should already have gone ahead with reconstruction works. Reconstruction work can begin only when we rush construction materials, technicians and money to the sites. The United Democratic Madheshi Front helped the Parliament pass the Reconstruction Authority Bill. There’s a need for a similar help to end the blockade, only then can reconstruction work move ahead.
On his priority: Reconstruction of houses or monuments
First of all, we should have skilled human resources ready. In the reconstruction phase, we will need a huge number of technicians and skilled workers, which we don’t have right now. Therefore, within a certain time period, we will need to train human resources and mobilise them. While engineers and overseers will prepare designs, we will produce skilled human resources in the villages.
Certainly, reconstruction of residential houses is the first priority. People have been living in sheds, under tents. They have been facing tremendous hardships, so my first priority will be on construction of houses. Reconstruction work will be geared towards this end.
Fine, you prepare human resources and reconstruction plans. In the meantime, can people build houses on their own or do they have to wait till you make all preparations?
People can of course build houses, provided they are technically safe and sound. VDC technicians under the Ministry of Local Development should verify this because donors have invested a lot on reconstruction works. Pretty soon, we will hold discussions with donor agencies and decide how to mobilise funds and build houses.
When will your technicians be ready? And when will they start building houses?
There’s a pledge to provide Rs 50,000 (to each quake victim) for house construction without the quake victims having to open bank accounts. But this fund will be disbursed together with construction materials and human resources. If funds are provided in advance, the money may be spent on food well in advance (before the arrival of construction materials and technicians).
Work will begin in earnest once I get the appointment letter. The RA will make an estimate regarding the requirement of technical human resources. Apart from reconstruction work, this can be a perfect opportunity for implementation of the constitution, which has envisaged creation of village councils (Gaunpalika) through integration of villages. Now, we will create a mechanism that will look after two-three village development committees. We will do this on the basis of topography and population of villages concerned. This will help create the basis for merger of villages. This mechanism will prepare designs for houses, monitor construction work and spend funds. There will be an office ofGaunpalika, comprising two-three villages. In the district, there will be an experts’ team, comprising geologists and others, for coordination.
Houses: When will they be ready?
It will take three months, at most, for the skilled human resources, including technicians, to reach the villages and start reconstruction works. During this time period, we will provide orientation on house construction to engineers. I think the reconstruction work will require 500 engineers.