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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 October 2007, 08:01 GMT 09:01 UK
Pakistani quake aid trickles down
By Zulfiqar Ali,
BBC Urdu service, Muzaffarabad

Temporary shelters in Muzaffarabad
Temporary shelters in Muzaffarabad
It is now two years since a devastating earthquake hit Kashmir and areas in northern Pakistan.

Much reconstruction work has been done. But thousands of people have still not been able to rebuild their homes.

Now another winter is approaching and many families will be forced to spend it in temporary shelters.

Some 275,000 houses were destroyed in Kashmir during the October 2005 earthquake.

The agency in charge of reconstruction efforts in the Pakistani-administered part says that only one in 10 people in rural areas who were made homeless will still be without a new home come winter.

But according to the Pakistani government, only 16,000 affected households have so far been paid full compensation under a rebuilding scheme.

The rest have received only some of the money due them.

The prices of construction materials have shot up. And in many cases, household incomes have gone down since the earthquake.

For many people, monetary assistance provided by the government for house-building is just about enough to lay the foundations.

Rising prices

Hafiz Ayub, a resident of Lwasi village in the Jhelum valley region, is a rare exception.

The house of Hafiz Ayub
Hafiz Ayub did not wait for help before building his house

Instead of waiting around for government assistance, he started re-building his house within six months of the earthquake, and completed it a month ago.

He spent 600,000 rupees ($10,000) on the four-room house.

The government has been paying 175,000 rupees ($2,915) for each house destroyed.

It comes in three to four instalments. That means that it is hard for the recipients to put it to good use, says Hafiz.

"It is not only the rising prices of construction material, but also the damaged road infrastructure which has made the transportation of this material costly."

A truckload of shingle and sand that cost $8 earlier now costs over $40. Steel pillars have doubled from $16 to $32 per 40kg.

And because labour is in such demand, the wages of construction workers have also doubled.

Not certain

Faced with these difficulties, most people in Lwasi village have not been as lucky as Hafiz Ayub.

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Nishat Mughal, a government schoolteacher, is one of them.

Her family has so far received $1,665 from the government, but she says she is not certain they will get the rest.

The government pays additional instalments only when construction begins.

But Ms Mughal spent the entire initial amount on clearing the debris from her fallen house and she does not have enough money to lay the foundations.

"I am the only earning member of the family and my salary is only $66 a month," she says.

"I have a sick father who needs frequent medication. Then there are utility bills, and food."

Nishat Mughal
Nishat Mughal has spent some of her money on caring for her family

There are others who have started building their houses but have no money to complete them.

Mohammad Afsar, another Lwasi resident, says he added his savings to the first two aid instalments and was able to lay the foundations and raise the walls.

But now he has no money to cover the structure and the remaining aid has not come for the last eight months.

"I go to the bank, and they tell me there's no money in my account," he says.

"I go to Erra [the Earthquake Relief and Reconstruction Authority] and they say I'm not listed.

"If I am not listed, how come they paid me previous instalments?"

Errors in records are not the only reason for chronic delays.

Lack of funds, administrative red tape and corruption are some of the other problems.

"It only takes four to six weeks for us to verify the mandatory construction undertaken by a recipient, and the delivery of his or her next instalment," says Asif Hussain Shah, a regional Erra official.

"We expect 90% of the rural people to complete their houses by December."

But that is clearly not the case with most residents of Lwasi village.



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