Shelter mission to Nepal

19 agosto 2015

Schermafbeelding 2015-08-18 om 12.06.04The regional UN-Habitat office asked the Shelter program for immediate support on program management for post-disaster redevelopment in Nepal. Radboud Buitenrust Hettema (Nepali speaking program manager with a water background) and Shelter program manager Bert Smolders traveled to Nepal arriving Tuesday July 7 to work with the local UN-Habitat team in Kathmandu. This was a reconnaissance mission which enabled them to locally obtain more information on the requirements and more input for a later Shelter mission by the end of August where more staff members will be involved.


Radboud wrote a blog during his mission:

First week:
On July 7, we landed on Thribuvan International Airport in Nepal, Kathmandu.

A lot has happened this week. In short it has been hectic but now finally the goals of our mission are clear. From an initial plan of mapping, house shifting to safer locations and water management, the aim will now be giving support on municipal/village level planning and implementation for training programmes on urban and rural housing including water and sanitation, securing open places for green and blue environment.

The situation is complex, as there is no adequate written ownership on property, recovery and redevelop of open places under the motto; building back better.

Schermafbeelding 2015-08-18 om 12.06.40We have had the opportunity to do some field visits in the Kathmandu valley, which gave us much more insight in how extensive and complicated the situation is. Parts of the old core of the cities have been badly damaged, especially Bhaktapur. Work is already going on to demolish damaged buildings, some owners leaving the remnants of ground flour and first floor to clearly indicate the borders of their property.

Of course these field visits made it easier to write the proposal for the “urban recovery and development support initiative”.

Saturday July 18
The Kathmandu kora has been organized for the fifth time this year on July 18.  The goal is to combine a sportive event with money raising for a project run by SCF. See for the events history:

Some members of the staff of UN-Habitat were encouraging me to participate, so on Saturday the UN Habitat/ARCADIS Shelter team was present at the Durbar Square of Patan. The 10-year-old daughter of our UN-Habitat colleague was the youngest participant of our team, but she made a good 25 km. At the end of the day, we arrived back in Patan. Though it was though for the ladies, not having biked so often on these rough off roads tracks, we can be proud of the achievement.

July 22
In the evening of Wednesday, 22 July just after 10pm we experienced a violent earthquake aftershock in Kathmandu. Though the experience of an earthquake is not new to us, it always comes as a surprise. The duration was short, about two seconds. People were traumatized, wanting to leave the house immediately. Many took to the streets, fearing more shocks may follow and already damaged buildings may collapse.

We are, however, assured that the people of Kathmandu and Bhaktapur are safe.

After not feeling any shocks for more than an hour we went back to sleep. There is conflicting information about the magnitude and epicenter of this Earthquake. However this seems to be a reliable source:

July 23
The UN-Habitat team and I had a second field visit to Bungamati, in order to meet the local community (leaders) and to prepare for the upcoming Shelter mission, which will take place end of August. Main goal was to explain the Bungamati pilot project and to hear from the community what they would like to do, restoring their settlement.

Most of the discussions were held in Newari (the language of the Newars in Kathmandu valley) but a great deal in Nepali, which was well to understand. The general feeling was positive, but more meetings need to be held and organised on Tole level (group of houses around a courtyard). The community has to agree how to re-develop their heritage buildings, open spaces, water ponds and temples. A start had been made by the community reviving the handcraft and skills. An additional source of income were tourist visits. Home stay and lodging facilities needs attention too.

After the meeting we had our tradition tea at the temporarily teahouse in Bungamati. The woman running the teahouse is single and trying to make the best out of the situation.

Schermafbeelding 2015-08-18 om 12.06.31July 31- 13 August
The days after the fieldtrip were spent on finalizing preparations for the second mission, the pilot project in Bungamati in August.

On this mission KUL (Catholic University Leuven) UN Habitat Nepal as well as Arcadis Shelter will participate. KUL will stay for 6 weeks at the site, so they will start with the preparation works together with UN Habitat. Arcadis will participate for 10 days, August 24-September 4.

We are lucky to have some Nepali young professionals, civil engineers and architects joining the team as volunteers. They are gathering information for writing the report on Bungamati. This report contains: household surveys, demographic data and pictures of pre-earth quake situation.

We will be well prepared for the second follow up mission, as the community is already participating.

Meanwhile the Arcadis Shelter team has selected and approved by UN Habitat Nepal. All needed expertise are added to the team.

  • Bert Smolders: Urban Planning/Programme Coordinator;
  • Rajendra Shrestha: Waste water management, Nepali origin and speaking Nepali as well as Newari language;
  • Nieke de Bel; Urban Planning/Architect;
  • Jamie Trybus; Small Economic Enterprises;
  • Radboud Buitenrust Hettema, Water Management/Civil Engineer, Nepali speaking.

Being well prepared, having a good solid team, we are sure to make a positive contribution on the redevelopment of Bungamati.

Looking back on this first mission I can be very positive. It had been 8 years since I had last visited the country. Not only was I surprised to still be able to speak the language so fluently, the knowledge of culture, habits and religion made me contribute more than I had expected.

Our Nepalese counterparts worked closely and very productive on this mission. This joint effort makes it more than worthwhile to work on the Shelter program.

Radboud Buitenrust Hettema