Wed, 23 Jan, 2019

Nepal At High Risks of Landslides This Monsoon

By Osheen Shrestha

Picture Courtesy: In April and May, Nepal was struck by two devastating earthquakes in less than 3 weeks. The disaster killed over 9000 people and injured thousands more. Over 500000 homes and 36,000 schools were shattered. This catastrophe pushed 2.5 to 3.5 percent of the Nepali people further into poverty. After almost a year the devastating 7.6 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal, a new international report claims that 4,321 landslides were triggered as a result of the temblor and aftershocks. The report further claims that the major destruction happened in the newly-developed settlements compared to that of the older settlements. Unfortunately, the total loss and damage from the quake are estimated at $7 billion. Due to the Gorkha Earthquake, around eight million lives of people - one-third of Nepal's population - were affected. However, the damage due to landslides and glacier lake floods was less than expected. As claimed by the scientists, due to the earthquake many places are at high risk of the landslides. The earthquake made the geological structure more unstable. Upstream areas of Bhotekoshi, Melamchi of Sindhupalchowk, Rasuwa, and northern Nuwakot, and 14 other quake-hit districts are at high-risk of landslides as their geological structure has become unstable due to the Gorkha earthquake. Similarly, Tansen of Palpa, Tamghas of Gulmi, Mangalsen of Achham, Bhojpur, Sankhuwasabha and Phidim along with all major settlement areas of the mid-hills are at high risk of landslide. The entire mid-hill region of the country has become vulnerable to landslides, especially after intense rainfall. The temblor in the earthquake had induced two grievous avalanches – one in Langtang Valley and another at the Mount Everest base camp. The landslide triggered in the Langtang Village was the most destructive and probably the largest landslide that completely buried Langtang village. The other disastrous landslide was in Everest base camp. The collapsing icy mass swept away a part of the Everest base camp and claimed 22 lives. Looking ahead, there are several measures that can be taken and insisted on by the state and by the citizens towards disaster preparedness. First, there is an obvious and urgent need to conduct safety audits of schools, hospitals and to lay down safe building practices for all new schools and hospitals. Second, mock drills matter. This is not the last earthquake. Regular, monitored, and systematic mock drills across small town and villages in the region needs to be conducted at the earliest possible time. This will enable us to detect weaknesses and gaps in the system. Nepal has a unique opportunity for building back better lives and livelihoods, including public infrastructure and essential services. Reconstruction and recovery in Nepal are also an opportunity to ensure its success. Last but not least, recovery and development in Nepal have to be sustainable.