16 January 2017
Future shock – the failure to learn from the 2015 earthquake in Nepal
The Nepali Times had a large piece over the weekend entitled Future Shock, which was driven by National Earthquake day in Nepal. In an accompanying editorial, the newspaper notes the disastrous failure of Nepal to learn lessons from the earthquake, noting that:
In Kathmandu Valley, the earthquake damage convinced many that cement buildings are safer. A stronger earthquake that lasted longer would have pancaked most concrete structures on 25 April 2015. As our special report in this edition points out, scientists have warned of much more catastrophic earthquakes in the vicinity of Kathmandu Valley and in Western Nepal. Existing and new buildings are just not capable of withstanding the intensity of shaking we are bound to experience in the Central Himalaya at any time.
And, most importantly:
We do not intend to spread panic, but the sad fact is that Nepal has squandered the lessons of 2015, and we are woefully unprepared for a disaster sure to come. This doesn’t just mean rehabilitating structures that came down two years ago, but also retrofitting buildings in western Nepal where a Big One is imminent.
The delayed and ineffective response to 2015 and the lack of serious preparedness is a result of a larger failure of governance. As our report shows, the whole corrupt building permit process has to be overhauled so that safety comes before revenue. We cannot afford to wait for the politics to fix itself, our greatest concern now should be on pre-disaster preparedness and to learn from past experiences.
In my opinion, this hits the nail on the head. The earthquake left many unstable slopes, and many exceptionally vulnerable people, in the mountainous areas to the north of Kathmandu. There was an almost total lack of government-led preparedness for the 2016 monsoon, despite warnings that the situation was highly dangerous. Since then, progress has been slow, even though the 2017 monsoon is just months away. It is hard not to believe that Nepal is heading for an even greater disaster.
The full set of Future Shock articles – they are all worth a read:
- ‘Not out of danger yet’, Sonia Awale
- Stirred, not shaken, Kunda Dixit
- Cashing in on politics, Shreejana Shrestha
- A concrete future, Sonia Awale
- A month that felt like a year, Kunda Dixit
- Preparing to be prepared, Kunda Dixit