17 April 2018

Landslides in Nepal: the need for a national agency?

Posted by Dave Petley

landslides in Nepal

A house ruined by one of the many landslides in Nepal

Landslides in Nepal: the need for a national agency?

In a report in Kantipur, various Nepali and Japanese experts are calling for the setting up of a national agency to take responsibility for the management of landslides:-

“Following the adverse impacts of landslide on diverse areas like infrastructure, arable land, human settlements and lives, disaster experts from Nepal and Japan have jointly proposed a Landslide Disaster Management Centre.  Disaster experts have drawn the attention of state bodies in a recent five-point declaration on how the government should be prioritising its efforts for saving property and lives to landslides.”

The report points out that over the last year landslides have been the leading cause of disaster induced fatalities, accounting for 29% of the total.  I recorded a total 83 fatalities in 2017 – interestingly the government statistics recorded 70 deaths.  I suspect that the difference is that my data includes both rockfalls and landslides associated with construction activities.  This is the cumulative total number of landslide fatalities in 2017 for Nepal:-

landslides in Nepal

Cumulative total number of landslides in Nepal in 2017.


The bunching of the landslides in the early part of the second half of the year is, as usual, clear.  This is the effect of the summer monsoon, as I have noted previously.  This period is just around the corner, and more losses from landslides are sadly inevitable.

It is hard to argue with the need to manage landslides better in Nepal.  The high losses from landslides are partly the result of a landscape-climate system that makes mass movements inevitable, but they are also largely due to poor land use, planning and construction practices.  Setting up a national agency is a good first step, but it can only work if it is given the resources and the tools to effect change.  That requires good people (Nepal is blessed with good levels of expertise in landslides in the public and private sectors), investment and political will.  I am unconvinced that the latter is there.  Until that is the case then this level of loss will continue.