Two months have passed since the devastating earthquake in Nepal on 25 April. Almost 9000 people were killed and 22 000 injured in the quake, which also left 3 million people homeless. Nepal is not a rich country. Its main sources of income – tourism, agriculture, commerce and real estate – have been badly affected by the earthquake and will take time to recover. At US$6.7 billion, the estimated cost of recovery is equivalent to one third of Nepal’s economy and that is, as Finance Minister Dr. Ram Sharan Mahat put it, an assessment based on a return to normal life, not a ‘Post Disaster Assessment of Wants and Desires’.
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As well as the lives and livelihoods lost, Nepal is also mourning the pre-quake progress it had made, which had won praise from the UN. Before the earthquake, Nepal was on track to achieve many of its Millennium Development Goals by the end of this year, including halving absolute poverty. A disaster like this could set the country back years, undermining its earlier efforts and tipping people who had crossed the line out of poverty right back to where they started, and perhaps further back than ever.
On 25 June an international conference was held in Kathmandu to discuss the reconstruction needed in the country with various heads of states of Nepal’s neighbouring countries and development partners. In his opening remarks, Mahendra Bahadur Pandey, Minister for Foreign Affairs, acknowledged that the government was ill-prepared for a disaster of this magnitude, but emphasised the country’s determination to ‘build back better’. “The necessity now is to ‘walk the talk’ of ‘post disaster period as an opportunity’ discourse to ensure that it does not become a mere statement of intent but an expression of reality,” he said.
The theme of the conference was ‘Towards a Resilient Nepal’, and the Minister asked the international community to offer not only financial support, but also technology transfer. Financial support has been relatively forthcoming: during the conference, India pledged US$1 billion for reconstruction, while the World Bank had already announced plans to provide up to US$500 million, including US$200 million for housing reconstruction. No doubt experts will also be willing to weigh in on how exactly a mountainous region in an earthquake zone ought to ‘build back better’.
Of course, money is only one aspect of reconstruction. Nepal’s cement industry alone will not be able to support such huge building efforts. Though there are more than 40 cement plants in the country, only about a quarter of these are fully integrated. Moreover, the capacities of the plants don’t stretch much beyond 200 000 tpy. This is set to change, though, with Dangote Cement planning a huge 2 million tpy plant, though it is unlikely to be operational before the end of 2017. Thankfully, neighbouring India has a huge surplus of cement and, as we reported on www.worldcement.com last month, northern India is expected to experience weak demand this fiscal. There will be plenty of cement to go around if the infrastructure is in place to move it. Watch this space for more news on that front.
Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy this World Review issue. I’d like to express my sincere thanks to all those people who sent in their news to be included. As this is the time of year that we start thinking about next year’s editorial schedule, we would appreciate your feedback on this and all our features to make sure World Cement remains relevant to you.