The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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State falls behind in rebuilding quake-hit Kutch

Ahmedabad, Jan. 27: Two years after the January 26, 2001, earthquake in Gujarat, the state has fared poorly in reconstruction compared with non-government organisations and other states involved in the rehabilitation.

In 289 villages in Kutch where the private-public partnership scheme was implemented, the NGOs have so far rebuilt 73 per cent of the collapsed houses.

The state, in comparison, under its “owner-driven scheme”, has rebuilt only 52 per cent of the collapsed houses in the G-5 category. Even in quake-hit rural areas, especially Kutch where the “progress” is said to be “impressive”, the overall progress in reconstruction falls below expectations.

In rural Kutch, for example, 48,478 of 1,08,129 G-5 category houses have been rebuilt; 19,000 have been built till the roof. In urban Kutch, 1,144 of 20,365 G-5 category houses have been rebuilt. Work on 13,672 houses in urban Kutch is yet to start.

The Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority, a state government nodal agency, blamed residents for the delay in reconstruction. The authority is in charge of rehabilitation projects funded by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

According to V. Thiruppagazh, the authority’s joint chief executive officer, “the biggest problem was relocation”.

The Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind debunked Thiruppagazh’s claim. Mohammed Afzal, the Jamiat’s coordinator and an engineer, cited of the artisan city of Ajrahpur, 10 km from Bhuj, as an example.

The artisans there had moved 40 km from their ancestral village when provided all basic necessities and marketing facilities, Afzal said. The Jamiat has built over 4,000 houses in this Kutch region.

The residents, some of them nationally and internationally acclaimed artisans, he said, have resumed normal life by starting to export their works.

The picture is as bleak in Ahmedabad city and Patan.

In Ahmedabad, where the multi-storeyed Shikhar and Mansi buildings were reduced to rubble, only 444 of 1,400 houses have been rebuilt. In Patan, the tally is 1,211 of 5,265 houses. Surendranagar, another badly-hit district, has a similar story to tell.

The state’s explanation is simple: It is undertaking the biggest-ever housing reconstruction programme in the world.

Thiruppagazh emphasised that badly-hit Kutch district is bigger than Haryana and Kerala, and the entire affected area in the state is bigger than Greece and Bulgaria.

The government, he said, has done exceptionally well in the housing sector in two years.

According to Thiruppagazh, 11,43,367 houses in Gujarat needed repairs and reconstruction. Of the 9,29,682 houses that needed repairs, 94 per cent have been covered in two years, he said. As many as 2,13,685 houses in G-5 category remain to be rebuilt.

When the number of houses to be rebuilt and the total area affected are considered, the state’s record is incomparable, Thiruppagazh said.

He drove home his point by citing the example of Japan that rebuilt 1,34,000 houses over five years after the Kobe earthquake.

Maharashtra, he said, rebuilt 8,702 houses in two years after the Latur earthquake. Turkey is estimated to take six years to rebuild 14,000 damaged houses.

Thiruppagazh attributed the NGOs’ and seven other states’ better performance to their building “houses in clusters”.

“The Gujarat government under its owner-driven scheme,” he said, “had to build houses everywhere where the NGOs did not adopt the village.’’

Among other reasons for the delay, he cited the state’s training of masons and engineers to build multi-hazard resistant houses. “We had to ensure quality auditing at different stages by an independent expert body,” Thiruppagazh said.

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