Nepal sacks quake reconstruction chief
11 Jan 2017 - 13:51
Kathmandu: Nepal on Wednesday sacked the chief of its earthquake reconstruction body, a move seen by critics as politically motivated and likely to further delay rebuilding following the April 2015 disaster.
Sushil Gyewali was appointed head of the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) a year ago after months of political wrangling over who should lead the agency.
The NRA is tasked with spending the $4.1 billion pledged by international donors to help the impoverished Himalayan nation rebuild following the quake that killed more than 9,000 people and destroyed half a million homes.
But a change in government in August saw Gyewali's political backers, the CPN-UML party, shift to the opposition bench and a new coalition of the main Maoist party and Nepali Congress take power.
The new government has since been agitating to remove Gyewali, repeatedly questioning his effectiveness and accusing him of missing deadlines.
"He (Gyewali) has been discharged," Information Minister Surendra Karki told AFP.
"The clarifications he gave in response to the government's concerns regarding reconstruction were not satisfactory. He passed the blame on other agencies rather than accepting responsibilities."
Reconstruction following the earthquake has been sluggish -- but critics say that removing Gyewali is unlikely to speed up the process.
"This is a politically motivated move. The present government has been looking for grounds to remove him since it came to power -- giving him difficult deadlines and seeking clarifications from him," said Guna Raj Luitel, editor of the Nagarik newspaper.
"Gyewali took office when there was nothing but an act for the formation of the reconstruction authority. If we compare what has been achieved in a year... there has been progress," he added.
Gyewali could not immediately be reached for comment.
Around 450,000 people who lost their homes have received 50,000 rupees ($460) of a promised 300,000 rupee grant to rebuild, but more than 200,000 people have submitted complaints to the NRA saying they have missed out.
"Our main concern is that there should be continuity in the process, that it is not put into jeopardy because of his (Gyewali's) removal," Rensje Teerink, the head of European Union's delegation to Nepal -- a major contributor to the country's aid pot -- told AFP.