2 October 2017

Karnali Highway in Nepal: the danger of collecting landslide videos (viewer beware)

Posted by Dave Petley

Karnali Highway in Nepal: the danger of collecting landslide videos (viewer beware)

The Karnali Highway is the road between Surkhet and Jumla in the Nepal Himalayas.  It is a long highway – 232 km in total – through a high mountain area.  Despite being a fundamentally important strategic link within the Mid-Western Development area, it is a road with many problems.  Wikipedia describes it as follows:-

According to “A Value Chain Analysis of Apple from Jumla”, and the intervention strategy indicates that more than 85 percent of the Karnali highway is still unsafe as of July 2011. Many rural inhabitants along the highway have poor access to markets, healthcare facilities and schools and deal with high transport costs. Inadequate roads make it hard for farmers to transport and market their crops. There is a pressing need to provide a functional road system in the area, made more urgent by current concerns over food prices and shortages, high energy costs and social and health needs Between 60 and 75 percent of children under five are chronically malnourished, and up to 64 percent of the population live in poverty.

Karnali Highway

Google Earth image showing the route of the Karnali Highway in Nepal between Surkhet and Jumla


The road is commonly described as being the most dangerous highway in Nepal (and there are many dangerous roads in Nepal).  However, it should not be forgotten that it has opened up a huge area of Nepal, improving access to education, healthcare and markets for many people.  But road users are subject to substantial levels of hazard, and landslides are common, especially in the monsoon.

A video was posted to Youtube last week that illustrates this in a terrifying manner.  The video is hard to watch as a man ends up being hit by a piece of flying rock.  I urge discretion in viewing it.


The location of this landslide along the road is not entirely clear – the text that accompanies it describes it as follows:-

Recently the Landslide at Dahi Kohla and now at radhauney or Kagney Khola killed a bike riders and blocked for a weeks because of massive and big stones on roads.

The Jumla Nepal blog has a report about this event as well – it describes the landslide as occurring at Bagauney, although again this location is not clear to me.  It is also unclear as to whether the person who was hit by the rock was killed – I cannot find any report in the Nepal media about this event.

This is a stark illustration of the dangers of filming landslides.  The rockslide rapidly transitions from a relatively small event into a very major slide, presumably because of a larger rockslope collapse upslope.   The size of the blocks that are moving – fast – is notable as this still from the video shows:

Karnali Highway

Still from a Youtube video of the landslide on the Karnali Highway.


The impact of this block into other boulders close to the road causes it to fracture, releasing pieces of fly rock. The dangers of these substantial pieces of rock are all too clear.

I often feature landslide videos on this site, and they have given us new insights into the way that slopes fail and move.  However, landslides are incredibly dangerous events, and it is never worth risking your life for the sake of a piece of footage.