Photo Essay

This photo essay is a compilation of images taken by members of the Social Science Baha research team located in Kathmandu, Nepal. The pictures were taken while conducting the first stage of fieldwork in the spring of 2018, and give a brief overview of community members’ experiences following the earthquakes of 2015 in three distinct regions of Nepal: Kartike, Sindhupalchowk; Borang, Dhading; and Bhaktapur, Kathmandu Valley. Although each location felt the effects of the earthquakes very differently, overarching issues such as access to construction materials and government funding, adherence to strict building codes, availability of skilled and unskilled labourers, and the sustainability of local forms of knowledge are seen across each site. These issues provide a pathway for understanding the complexities and contradictions present in Nepal’s ongoing reconstruction.

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Bhaktapur, Kathmandu Valley​​​

© Bina Limbu. Community members working to put jhingate tiles (traditional tiles made of clay) on the roof of a public resting place. © Manoj Suji. Labourers working in the foundation area of a new house. The house was estimated to have two rooms on each floor and is built on 171.12 square feet of land. © Bina Limbu. Reconstruction of Siddhi Laxmi temple at Bhaktapur Durbar Square.
© Bina Limbu. The difference in size and strength of an old brick (left) and a new brick (right). This old brick was said to be more than 20-30 years old. Old bricks of different sizes can be found, however, older bricks are said to be stronger and heavier than the new ones available today. Thus, people have preserved these old bricks to be reused in reconstruction, especially to strengthen the foundation of their houses. © Bina Limbu. A small land plot left vacant by the owner. After property partition among brothers of a household, as is customary in Nepal, most families are often left with a very small parcel of land in Bhaktapur. Some choose to build a house and reside there, or leave the land vacant and migrate to other places to live. Despite this, people do not want to let go of their right over the property as the land value is very high in Bhaktapur. © Bina Limbu. Pottery has been a traditional business in Bhaktapur as the Newar inhabitants use clay items for various festivals, to make curd, and to drink aila (Newari alcohol). Some people have said that pottery has been affected after the earthquakes as the price of clay has increased. Also, due to increased urbanization, there are less open spaces to dig clay soil for pottery use.


© Bina Limbu. Women washing old bricks from earthquake-destroyed houses to be reused for the new houses, especially for the foundation of the newly built houses. © Bina Limbu. A stone craftsman carving stone designs for the reconstruction of Shree Vatsala Durga temple. Stone craftsmanship was said to be even more expensive and time consuming than wood craftsmanship as skilled stone craftsmen are very scarce. © Bina Limbu. A craftsman carving wood designs on a traditional window at Bhaktapur Durbar Square. Such craftsmanship is very expensive due to high cost of wood and shortage of skilled craftsmen.

Borang, Dhading

© Manoj Suji. In Borang, apart from new one-room houses, the home owner of this house pictured here has repaired damage in the traditional style with stone walls and multiples windows. © Manoj Suji. Trained women masons working on the reconstruction of a house. There is a severe shortage of skilled labour as men have gone for foreign employment. In this scenario, some women trained by National Society for Earthquake Technology (NSET) have been stepping up to work as masons. © Bina Limbu. On the way to Borang, trucks carrying supplies getting stuck in the muddy red soil roads. This problem is made worse during the monsoon season in Nepal, and increases the risk of deadly landslides and accidents.
© Bina Limbu. Mules transporting construction materials to Borang. © Bina Limbu. People crushing stones available in their backyard to acquire building materials as they reconstruct their houses. © Nabin Rawal. Beneficiaries waiting outside the banks to receive their reconstruction government-issued grants.
© Bina Limbu. This is a newly built kitchen in a house of Borang. People of this area prefer to have an attic-like space above to store their baskets and equipment. They also liked to have ventilation (like the net ventilators shown in the picture) to let out the smoke from the firewood stove in the kitchen. In the new post-earthquake houses there are no ventilators or chimneys to let out the kitchen smoke nor any attic space to keep their belongings. © Prakash Chandra Subedi. A newly constructed one-roomed house in Borang. The house is locked as the owner resides in Dhading bazaar. After the earthquakes he came and built this earthquake-proof house using the government grant. After completion he returned to live in Dhading bazaar. As this house is shared with one of his neighbours, the owner will only be staying here when he comes to visit the village. © Bina Limbu. An old house that was newly repaired after the earthquake destruction in Borang. Before the earthquake, people had 2-4 floor houses but afterwards people repaired them to be of smaller sizes. These repaired houses are usually 1-2 floors but still much bigger than the new government-funded one-roomed houses. The ground floor is traditionally made of stones and mud, while the upper floor is made of wood.
© Bina Limbu. A group of labourers and masons working to dig the foundation of a house in Borang. In the process of digging the foundation, the workers take out the old stones deposited beneath the ground. If the stones are too big, they break them into pieces so that it is easier to take them out. These stones are later used to make new houses. © Bina Limbu. The construction of one-roomed houses in Borang. Many local people find these new houses to be of little use as they are small and do not fit traditional housing designs. Due to limited access to reconstruction materials, and strict reconstruction guidelines, households will only receive funds to rebuild if houses meet the standards. © Bina Limbu. Women in Borang are being trained by NSET (National Society for Earthquake Technology) as masons to build earthquake resistant houses. In the first round of mason training there was no participation from women, so NSET encouraged their participation in the second round. Here in this photo, they are building a house of a woman who has a visual impairment.
© Manoj Suji. Many traditional houses in this area were built with a ground-level space to store wood for fuel. However, one-room house designs implemented by NSET for formal reconstruction restrict homeowners to build this space due to safety regulations. © Manoj Suji. On the way to Borang road construction is on-going. People in Borang estimated they will have road access in a year or so. © Manoj Suji. This is a one-room house in Borang but  it is different than other houses in terms of space and design. The house has more space and a second floor with two feet walls on the upper floor.
© Prakash Chandra Subedi. One-roomed house under construction. On the other side is the new house built after the earthquakes with local resources. © Prakash Chandra Subedi. A wooden log in the process of being split into smaller pieces to make the frames of window and doors. Community members need to travel more than two hours distance to get these wooden logs. © Bina Limbu. This is a hillside near Lisne river where seven Borang community members died due to landslide triggered by the earthquakes. This issue is an ongoing hazard for local community members.
© Nabin Rawal. Human porters transporting iron rods for housing reconstruction. © Bina Limbu. Weeds growing on the debris of a house that was destroyed in the earthquakes more than three years ago. © Bina Limbu. The view of Borang village with Ganesh Himal on the left.


Kartike, Sindhupalchowk

© Manoj Suji. Storage of construction materials on the side of the road in the middle of the Kartike bazaar. © Manoj Suji. Debris of the road construction on the slope areas in Golchhe area. Local people said that hydropower supported them, and road construction in the village helped them transport construction materials. © Manoj Suji. People are busy loading construction materials (CGI sheets and iron rods) at one of the busiest hardware shops in Kartike bazaar.
© Bina Limbu. Labourers working to attach iron sheets to a newly constructed house. © Prakash Chandra Subedi. This was the old water tank (capacity 1000 liters) that supplied water to Kartike Bazaar and was destroyed by earthquake. © Bina Limbu. Reconstruction of a new water tank in Kartike (capacity 20,000 litres). The municipality has pledged to provide funding for the new water tank.
© Manoj Suji. Temple in the middle of Kartike bazaar that has not yet been reconstructed. Local people said that priority is given to individual houses instead of temple reconstruction. © Manoj Suji. This house was built by Tuki Sangh- a local NGO. Tuki Sangh supported some households who lost family members in the earthquakes to build their house by providing technical assistance. © Manoj Suji. Storage of reconstruction materials on both sides of the road in Kartike bazaar.
© Bina Limbu. A cornfield in Manje that was cultivated on top of landslide deposits from the earthquake. This region of Nepal is particularly prone to landslides and the communities here have been experiencing great  difficulties, especially in monsoon season. © Bina Limbu. “Hybrid houses” with stone and mud wall at the back and brick walls on the other sides. According to NRA (Nepal Reconstruction Authority) technicians, these “hybrid houses” do not fall within the NRA guidelines and have no way of being approved for the reconstruction grant. © Prakash Chandra Subedi. Police office building under construction just a few meters behind main Kartike bazaar road. Recently, the police office has been operating from a rented house nearby the main road of the bazaar.