After the Quake: Waiting for Relief

After the Quake: Waiting for Relief

Organisation: Centre for Investigative Reporting-Nepal (Nepal)

Publication Date: 04/10/2017

Size of team/newsroom:small


Seven reporters rode motorbikes and four-wheel-drive Jeeps into Nepal’s mountains to find some of the 15,000 men, women and children struggling through a second winter in emergency tents or metal shacks. Back in Kathmandu, our data wranglers analyzed more than 6,000 pages of records to track rebuilding grants to earthquake victims. Our goal was to document and explain delays in Nepal’s reconstruction efforts after its devastating April 2015 earthquake. Nepalese people are our audience, but we also wanted to offer a resource for international organizations seeking earthquake recovery data. Our multimedia project, “After the Quake: Waiting for Relief,” is a first in Nepal: seven young journalists from seven different media outlets collaborated on the first really deep data dive by media. The stories are brought together on the Centre for Investigative Journalism-Nepal website, along with interactive maps.

What makes this project innovative? What was its impact?

Our data chief Arun Karki analyzed records of government reconstruction grants promised to 625,986 households. Using the results, he created interactive maps with granular detail of the slow pace of funds to earthquake-stricken areas. Collectively, stories showed that the Nepal government has so far spent only 3 percent of more than $900 million promised to residents to rebuild. While the seven journalists collaborated on data, each reporter produced and published an individual story (see links). A Republica reporter wrote that a distressing scarcity in manpower was delaying construction – even for those who had money and materials. Rudra Pangeni reported that a mere 150 masons trained in earthquake-resistant techniques were working in the hard-hit Sindhuli district – so few that the bricklayers would need 130 years to erect the district’s 34,256 demolished houses. Collectively, the reporters’ stories reached tens of thousands of readers and viewers across Nepal as they were published in the four leading newspapers and websites. Importantly, stories about how international charities have built only a small fraction of promised houses were broadcast on the BBC-Nepali language service, with its audience of 6 million. The interactive maps show in astonishing detail grant distribution for each village in each of the 14 earthquake-hit districts. These figures are constantly updated. The maps alone have been heavily viewed, even in Nepal with its small Internet-penetration. Analytics show an average of 350 views per day. The interactive map for a Nepali Times article alone has received more than 1,000 views. In that report, Shreejana Shrestha revealed complaints and grievances against Village Development Committees where victims were omitted Our stories contribute to the earthquake reconstruction story that will dominate Nepal for years to come -- and demonstrated that time-consuming data projects can be done collaboratively.

Technologies used for this project:

As the reporters began to develop stories about the slow and disorganized distribution of promised grants to rebuild residents’ homes, we knew we could obtain government online data to document that grant process in precise numbers. Our data chief Arun Karki extracted more than 6,000 pages of online grant documents from the National Reconstruction Authority. For granular detail of each of the 14 earthquake-hit districts, he used personal sources to obtain information from the District Development Committees. The other six reporters analyzed additional data subsets. After group discussions, the data was cleaned, sort and analyzed for presentations in charts, maps and infograpahics. But the project isn’t just about the numbers. In-the-field reports, videos and narratives of victims make the stories compelling. Rajneesh Bhandari begins: “It’s midnight. The rain pouring on the tin roofs makes a loud noise. Kanchaman Dong tried to ignore the rain and cold in the make-shift shelter that has been his home for two years.” We used a variety of technologies. For collecting and analyzing data, we used, an online app (for pdf to Excel file conversion); Spreadsheet (for data cleaning and analysis); Open Refine (for data cleaning); and SQL (Sequential Query Language) for data analysis. For data visualizations, we used Excel, Highcharts, CartoDB, Infogram, vennage and other freely available software, in addition to Adobe Photoshop. For data mapping we used for multimedia video curation and Adobe Premiere. A Fulbright Specialist award provided Washington, D.C.-based journalist Lucinda Fleeson the means to team up with CIJ-Nepal editors to coordinate the project. The Fund for Investigative Journalism, in Washington, D.C, provided funds for the reporters to take extra time to analyze data and travel to remote areas.


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