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Nepal’s landscape encompasses the world’s highest mountains, steep middle hills, low-lying plains and a vast watershed. Across all of these zones, formidable hazard events upend people’s lives with disheartening frequency. There are earthquakes, landslides, floods, extreme weather events, droughts, glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs), and fires. Climate change is affecting agriculture and the environment, placing food security and livelihoods at risk for millions of people.

A large proportion of Nepali people depend on agriculture-based livelihoods and live in communities with limited road access. Earthquakes, landslides, and floods in remote regions not only destroy lives and property, but also damage roads, bridges, and footpaths that people depend on to access health care, education, and markets.

Nepal’s multiple hazards may cause prolonged disaster impacts. The 2015 M7.8 Gorkha earthquake highlighted this toll. Nearly 9,000 people died, mostly in buildings that collapsed, and more than half a million homes collapsed or were damaged, largely in rural areas. The mainshock and aftershocks triggered at least 25,000 landslides, and people living in hill communities were isolated for weeks. Farmers struggled to produce output and get to market. Food prices skyrocketed. In the monsoon that followed, there were 10-20 times more landslides than in prior years. Thousands of residents were displaced for an extended period. 

Everyone living in Nepal faces earthquake risk. Seismic activity primarily along the Main Himalayan Thrust fault has lifted the great mountains and can generate earthquakes greater than magnitude 8.0. Unreinforced masonry buildings and non-engineered poorly constructed reinforced structures, which are common across the country, are prone to collapse during strong shaking. 

Seasonal rains trigger landslides every year, whereas a strong earthquake can trigger thousands of regional landslides in a single day. The monsoon rains transform numerous landslides into extremely damaging debris flow. Landslides damage homes, farms, and roads as well as water supply and power infrastructure. Landslide dams that block rivers result in flooding upstream, and may result in catastrophic flooding downstream. Certain human activities—road construction that cuts into slopes, settlements built in steep terrain, blocked drainages, and deforestation—considerably increase landslide hazard.

As Nepal charts its path forward, GeoHazards International is proud to contribute by partnering with government agencies, local communities, and non-governmental organizations to achieve resilience goals and to uphold commitments to the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Paris Climate Agreement, and the Sustainable Development Goals. GeoHazards International’s Nepali staff members have been based in Kathmandu and Sudurpashchim Province since 2016. Our current multi-year programs emphasize: 

Resilience measures in the western part of Nepal, where earthquake risk is very high. We are advising fast-growing districts how to plan safer development, and equipping people with skills to make homes, schools and hospitals resistant to earthquakes. This region of Nepal has not experienced a large earthquake in centuries, and communities are underprepared. Strain has been steadily building on the major fault and will one day rupture powerfully again, perhaps much stronger than the 2015 Gorkha earthquake. Landslide risk is also high. We are assisting both rural and urban communities. 

School seismic safety and builder training. Students throughout Nepal attend school in unreinforced stone or concrete buildings that could collapse in an earthquake. Our most recent school program built a new earthquake-resistant building, and a seismic retrofit of another school building is planned, both in provinces in the western part of Nepal. Local construction workers, including women, received training and hands-on experience in safer techniques that they can apply to other building projects. Progress builds slowly but surely. For example, hundreds of schools that had been seismically strengthened by our long-time Nepali partner, National Society for Earthquake Technology-Nepal (NSET) survived the 2015 Gorkha earthquake undamaged, ensuring the students’ uninterrupted education. In the same earthquake-affected villages as the safer schools, several newer homes had been constructed with features to minimize earthquake damage. 

Disaster readiness of the national health sector. Hospitals in Nepal need to remain functional during emergencies, so that a surge of injured patients can access critical care. But many facilities are vulnerable to damage from hazards. We partnered with health facilities to address seismic vulnerabilities and to prepare for crises. Programs included hands-on training for engineers to anchor equipment and maintain back-up systems, staff disaster training, and emergency planning. We trained engineers in Nepal’s Ministry of Health and Population to evaluate structural and non-structural safety as well as disaster preparedness of hospitals nationwide.  



The Path Forward
Giving Ahead of Disasters Saves Lives
Change that Started with One School
To You, Our Heartfelt Thanks
Naya Suruwaat With English Subtitles