Quake-hit Nepal imposes two-month ban on new buildings

Nepalese earthquake survivors clear the rubble as they salvage belongings from a damaged house in devastated area of Bhaktapur, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, Nepal, on May 18, 2015. Nepal on Monday imposed a two-month moratorium on the start of
Nepalese earthquake survivors clear the rubble as they salvage belongings from a damaged house in devastated area of Bhaktapur, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, Nepal, on May 18, 2015. Nepal on Monday imposed a two-month moratorium on the start of new building projects and limited current construction to two storeys after recent deadly earthquakes destroyed nearly half a million homes. -- PHOTO: EPA

KATHMANDU (AFP) - Nepal on Monday imposed a two-month moratorium on the start of new building projects and limited current construction to two storeys after recent deadly earthquakes destroyed nearly half a million homes.

Officials said the move would give authorities time to review building standards in the wake of a 7.8-magnitude quake on April 25 and a smaller one last week that reduced much of the capital Kathmandu to rubble.

Other rural areas were also left in ruins by the two quakes.

"We have halted permits for new buildings, and put a pause on approved buildings that have not begun construction," said Purna Chandra Bhattarai, joint secretary at the ministry of federal affairs and local development.

"We need to revisit our building norms and standards and this pause will give us that time," he said.

Buildings already under construction will be restricted to two storeys until a new government committee comes up with recommendations to revise the current building code by mid-July, Bhattarai told AFP.

The earthquakes, which killed more than 8,500 people and made thousands homeless, highlighted the number of homes and offices built with sub-standard materials and with a routine disregard for regulations.

Nepal has a history of earthquakes, with a disaster in 1934 also reducing much of Kathmandu to rubble.

The government has set aside US$200 million for a national reconstruction and rehabilitation fund, and has asked the international community to contribute a further US$1.8 billion towards rebuilding.