Planning for the Future: How to create a resilient and sustainable Nepal

May 6, 2015 by  
Filed under Response

Erica C. Fischer, Candice S. Avanes, and Lauren Biscombe

One of the biggest questions after a natural disaster is: “how will we rebuild?” This is a careful balance of rebuilding too fast with poor construction, and taking too long to plan. The media puts a lot of pressure on governments to plan and rebuild quickly after a disaster; however, strategic planning and reflection upon what went wrong and how the country can improve is vital for sustainable and resilient communities. This post focuses on the steps the Nepali government has taken in that direction. This is important because geologists and seismologists have been predicting a “big one” for Nepal. This “big one” will occur much closer to Kathmandu and cause much more destruction.

Improved construction practices:
Effort by Nepal to improve awareness and construction practices in the past
Nepal is a world leader in outreach to communities to reduce disaster risk; however, without enforcement of building codes, there is no quality assurance or control over what is being built.

Concrete columns are more likely to withstand a strong earthquake if lengths of steel bar wrapped around vertical reinforcement are sharply bent back where they are attached. Such methods are called "ductile details" by engineers.Credit Kit Miyamoto, Miyamoto International

Concrete columns are more likely to withstand a strong earthquake if lengths of steel bar wrapped around vertical reinforcement are sharply bent back where they are attached. Such methods are called “ductile details” by engineers.Credit Kit Miyamoto, Miyamoto International

Creating vulnerabilities
How Nepal can improve in the future

  • Many of the community-based disaster risk initiatives and programs occur in major cities (Kathmandu) and not in rural areas.
  • Lack of enforcement of building codes – building codes and restrictions are difficult to enforce in a country with so many isolated villages. In fact, construction quality in rural areas has actually worsened over the last decade due to the combination of growing population in the villages and the use of spare stone and clay from previously damaged structures as construction materials to quickly house this increasing population.
  • High poverty and low education rates shift the focus of the public to matters which are potentially considered more pressing than earthquake engineering and reducing earthquake vulnerabilities.

 

Nepal’s efforts to reduce vulnerabilities within the country have just begun, and unfortunately the April 25, 2015 earthquake struck just as they were getting started. Implementation of improved construction practices in schools and urban areas saved lives during this earthquake. As the programs and initiatives continue to take effect and spread around the country, the building stock will be constructed better and safer.

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