The scale of the Nepal earthquake in April of 2015 has left many residents with psychological damage and living in fear with every tremor.
Even a relatively minor tremor measuring 4.6 on the Richter scale in January of this year, while not causing major damage, left several people injured and others crying and panicking on the streets of Nepal’s capital city Kathmandu.
Reports at the time suggested that some were wounded from leaping from windows as soon as the earth began to shake, such is the desperation to flee buildings that in a few seconds could easily become mass graves.
Yadev Nidhi Niraula, a local school principal, says that while he and some of his compatriots may not be physically wounded, the mental scars are still there and are still raw.
“I am still disturbed psychologically because of this earthquake and of course economically,” says Mr Niraula, who has two children. “We are still living in fear, so every time there is an earthquake we try to run away. Still we have aftershocks and even when the aftershocks come we try to flee.
He continued: “Many people are affected psychologically by this earthquake. They lost their family, they lost their houses, they lost their property. So it was very paining. But slowly life became normal, but after 15 days there was another bigger earthquake and that has destroyed so much. Many houses collapsed, many people died.”
The effort to reconstruct Nepal has largely relied on the private sector and NGO’s. Despite receiving billions of pounds in international donations, the Nepali government only announced the official start of reconstruction in January.
That has left it to locals to take matters into their own hands such as engineer Narayan Acharya, who runs the company Rammed Earth Solutions which specialises in the building of low-cost, green, earthquake-resistant houses.
With his knowledge, Narayan is frustrated at his government’s lacklustre response, especially during the harsh winter months in Nepal.
“I know it is difficult, there is thousands and thousands of houses to rebuild,” he says. “But something the government could do is run effective programmes to help, like distributing warm clothes and when building small houses, installing insulation is such a simple thing to do. It doesn’t cost that much money. Put some mud on the side, some grass on the top, and the house will be insulated.”
Narayan constructed his own house in 2011, in a small village on the outskirts of Kathmandu, using rammed earth and bamboo. The concept is influenced by a New Zealand house building method. The home is solar and uses recycled materials, but most importantly it can withstand earthquakes, so Narayan’s desire to see the compressed earth concept is not purely for his own business gains.
He says: “I built my house, I was on BBC news. I don’t want any money but I want to promote the technology, the government should support me. Then other people can learn as well.”
Unfortunately until new methods are embraced, many people could be rebuilding structures in a way that if another earthquake were to happen – and a bigger one is predicted by experts – they would come crashing down all over again.
Lindsay Burns, an Australian disaster relief coordinator for the company Projects Abroad, believes that Nepal will sadly take longer to get back on its feet than other disaster-affected countries.
“It’s my understanding that most of the money that was raised internationally has not reached the ground,” Burns says. “It seems most the development work is coming from foreign NGO’s. It seems as though the aid money that was raised has been filtered in the government and has sat there.
“I understand the constitution changes, but as someone living here, with the limited knowledge I have, it feels as though the government is not doing what they ought to do from a financial standpoint and without development organisations and without people coming to volunteer, it seems like the work wouldn’t be done.”
When asked how long it will take for Nepal to rebuild, calling on his experience in global disaster relief, Burns says: “Five to ten years. A very long time. In Kathmandu you have access to materials, but there are so many people in isolated mountain regions, a lot of these places are a days hike away or two days walk away.
“A lot of these people are in severe need and don’t even get the minimal exposure that Kathmandu residents get. So it’s going to be a very long time for those people especially to get back on their feet”.