We Can Build Nation, Too

Even our two neighbors, India and China, indicated giving up their competitive positions and jointly worked towards the reconstruction of Nepal

July 3, 2015, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol: 09 No. -2 July. 03- 2015 (Ashad 18, 2072)

We held the twelfth General Convention (of the Confederation of Nepalese Industries) when our country and people had been passing through a very critical phase of history as we were making efforts to come out of the devastating earthquakes. The support lent and solidarity expressed by the international community at this time of pain and crisis is our major achievement.  Even our two neighbors, India and China, indicated giving up their competitive positions and jointly worked towards the reconstruction of Nepal. Not only in reconstruction, I can also see the possibility of building India, China and Nepal through a trilateral approach to push Nepal's economic development to new heights. This is a good sign for us.

This is not a time to indulge in a debate whether this is new construction or reconstruction. One cannot deny the interdependent relations between new construction and reconstruction following the earthquakes. The earthquakes completely destroyed 600,000 houses and thousands of schools. There is a major damage to our infrastructure. On the one hand we have to reconstruct 375 old and new historical heritage sites without destroying their originality. On the other hand, we have to rebuild the infrastructure of the hills and of Kathmandu with a new approach and in line with the need of present time and 21st century.

The time has changed as economic infrastructure and population have grown. We need to draw our plans keeping in mind all these areas of change. We don't need to get involved in trifle debates. I am remembering some old devastating earthquakes and their imprints. In 2008, an earthquake of 8 Richter scale killed 80,000 people making 18 million population homeless in China's Sichuan province. China faced this unimaginable devastation. The way China handled the quake, the people forgot their wounds giving new hopes in the face of citizens of Sichuan province. The Reconstruction Plan introduced after eleven days changed the old face of Sichuan, making it one of the new cities in the world. All the houses got new faces within thee years of the earthquake. Yes, it was a tragedy. However, the visionary leaders used that devastation and difficult period as an opportunity. I do believe that the pain of Nepalese can turn into happiness and it is possible.

We all know of the 2001 Gujarat earthquake of 7.7 Richter scale as another example. It was one of the worst disasters of the last fifty years in India as it killed 13800 people and destroyed 1.2 million houses. However, the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was the chief minister at that time, established a Disaster Management Authority within two weeks and completed the reconstruction works and changed the face of Gujarat in two years. The state flourished again. The government joined hands with the private sector and Public Private Partnership model was implemented to rebuild the state. That model has been established as a new model in the world. The economic development started in Gujarat and expanded all over India.

I know that we all Nepalese are alert, including Nepal Government, policymakers and other active institutions, looking at the bitter experiences of Haiti. With the active involvements of former US presidents, the world community expressed the commitment of 13.5 billion dollars. However, even after five years since the earthquake, 100,000 people are still living in tents. This helps us to use the goodwill and support of  national and international communities effectively in the country without any political and administrative hindrance under a good quality of leadership.

If we agree to carry out the concept of reconstruction and new construction, the first condition will be to prepare a 21st century's Master Plan.  There is the need to implement the master plan prepared by Sichuan and Yunan cities. The modern cities built in the last thirty years were built under such a plan. For this, we can take support from those friendly countries with good experience. Today, we have his Excellency Gopinath Pillai. Singapore is providing special expert service to build the modern cities. The state of Andhra Pradesh of India and Singapore are also supporting  other countries to build modern cities. Nepal also needs to work this way to modernize it. For this, we need to ask for the special support from  friendly countries.

In the context of nation building, the issue of resources is insignificant. If we develop our plan, the resources will follow us. Nepal's friendly countries have committed the support of 4.5 billion dollars to Nepal on the basis of PDNA. If we ask for nation building with plans, we will receive a much bigger support. However, every helping hand expects a rigid implementation or achievement in a limited time. Whether the donors are from outside or inside, they want to see the change in the face of Nepal with their investment. I have also other suggestions. The government alone cannot do the task of nation building. This is itself a false thinking. Definitely, the government needs to play the role of a facilitator and it needs to give directives from time to time. The government also needs to play an important role to maintain discipline to accomplish the target. We need to create conducive environment for neighbors, friendly countries, and bilateral and multilateral donors, who want to work in Nepal. If we fail to create a conducive environment , there will again be the same mistake we have committed in the history. We cannot fulfill the loss incurred from natural disaster. However, we can change this disaster into an opportunity. We need to be responsible.

(Chaudhary is, President Emeritus CNI. Excerpts of the statement delivered by Chaudhary at the 12th General Assembly of Confederation of Nepalese Industries)

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