Second Shelter Mission to Nepal – August and September 2015

Nepal1A unique Shelter mission took place between 24 August and 5 September with the purpose to develop an urban recovery and development program for immediate action in Kathmandu Valley, Nepal. In response to the earthquake of 25 April, the initiative aimed to assist in the redevelopment of one of the hardest-hit historical areas of this Valley.

Five Arcadis staff members were travelling to Nepal: Rajendra Shrestha (USA), Radboud Buitenrust Hettema (The Netherlands), Nieke de Bel (Belgium), Jamie Trybus (United Kingdom) and Shelter Program manager Bert Smolders. The mission intended to work on Hot Spot Analysis for townships in the Kathmandu valley and to further concentrate on the Priority Projects in Bungamati, together with KU Leuven students, Nepalese young graduate students in architecture and civil engineering.

Radboud Radboud Buitenrust Hettema wrote a blog during the mission:

nepal2On August 24 2015, Nieke and Radboud landed early morning on Thribuvan International Airport in Nepal, Kathmandu, welcomed by his Nepalese family. After a quick shower, morning coffee in Summit hotel and breakfast on the way, we took a tour through Patan, giving Nieke a first impression of Nepal. Later that day Bert, Rajendra and Jamie arrived. Together we went to the UN-Habitat office to introduce the new ARCADIS Shelter team members, which was very much appreciated.

August 25-28
After the coordination meeting with all participating parties UN-Habitat, KU Leuven, Nepalese graduate Students and Shelter team, some field visits were hold in Bhaktapur and Patan to see initiatives on preserving traditional Newar Houses. It was good to see the different approaches, as each of the initiative takers had the idea their concept was the best implemented. The insight is very valuable as we now have an idea how to start with the “Building Back Better” concept. Traditional building practices incorporating improved building techniques, but not to forget the right proportions and scale of building, as Nepalese have increased in height, wanting to change the scale of the new constructions.

The days of the week are passing fast as we have to put down our ideas. Review of Available Masterplans for the Kathmandu Valley, Hot Spot Analysis of towns in Kathmandu Valley, Bungamati Pilot Project.

In between this busy work, Rajendra and Radboud were asked to give a quest lecture on the Tribhuvan Campus of Engineering on water and sanitation.

nepal3The request was to give an example on how water treatment in United States and Europe was done. A very interesting session, attended by the KU Leuven students and Bert Smolders.

August 29-30 weekend
The festivals have started in Kathmandu valley. Before a festival can take place, the streets and water ponds needs to be cleaned. Here religious and cultural inheritance go well together in daily life, speeding up the process of reviving the reconstruction after the Earth Quakes. We are so lucky to have Rajendra to introduce us to the Patan festival and meeting his family in town. A really colorful occasion, after we could go for a weekend trip outside the valley. A two and half hour bus ride towards the west of Nepal.

The east-west Highway over flooded with busses, truck, motorbikes cars. Health and safety, some planning and traffic rules lacking some improvement are needed.

Sunday afternoon the Gai Jatra festival in Bhaktapur was observed, a colorful celebration to remember the family member passed away this year.

August 31 – 4 September
More impressions during our weekend trip on transportation, failure of modern construction techniques and labor situation on working sites. The amount of information getting into your head is massive and impressive. Each experience needs to get in place. It is sometimes difficult to write it down immediately, but as times goes by, at last moment a burst of information is suddenly translated on paper making us producing the so much needed plans and presentations.

nepal4On Thursday, Jamie was travelling back home to the United Kingdom. Very sorry to say goodbye to him, especially since we had decided to extend the mission by a few more days on request of UN-Habitat.

The projects identified and being shaped into Priority Projects for Bungamati. Further to be implemented and adopted for Hot Spot Townships in Kathmandu Valley, extra time to complete these subjects was needed. Jamie’s contribution on socio-economics is near completion when he leaves. Other Shelter team members continue to finalize his work. 

September 5-6 weekend
Saturday early morning birdwatching trip to the top of Nagarjung (Jamachowk 2090m). A group of 24 enthusiastic bird watchers walking through a park area. Though few rare birds were seen, the group collected a huge amount of garbage on its way back, which was handed over to the guards of the park.

nepal6More walking to be done, driving up to Banepa, east of Kathmandu and next morning a walk to Namaboudha, a Buddist Monastery on the hill top. On the way plenty of time to talk to the Nepalese ling in this Earth Quake stricken area. Radboud could talk for hours, but this way we would never make it to the top.

September 7 & 8
Last two days to prepare the final workshop presentation of the plans. Meetings with UN-Habitat to discuss the progress and to check if expectations were met. It is hectic to get all information put into the right words as well as into the presentations. Fine tuning on the day of departure. UN Habitat will hold a large workshop with various stakeholders and donor agencies. A positive outcome will surely be of help to implement the programs and will help to mark the start of Rebuilding Bungamati.

ARCADIS Shelter selected and presented the following Priority Projects:

  • Art and Crafts;
  • Visitors Centre;
  • Digital City;
  • Public Space (memorial park);
  • Rainwater Harvesting;
  • Sanitary Drainage and Treatment Plants;
  • Building Back Better and Vocational Training.

Looking back on this second mission we can be proud of the way we cooperated. Bringing together a team form complete different background of USA, UK, Belgium and the Netherlands, it had been a great way of working together and leaving Nepal as friends, almost as close as family. This teamwork has made it a fantastic experience to work for the Shelter program.

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