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Tag: Nepal Earthquake

OP-EDs and Columns

Repercussions of Disaster


The opinion piece originally appeared in the April 2023 Issue of New Business Age Magazine. Please read the original article here.

The probability of disasters occurring worldwide is increasing. The Annual Weather, Climate, and Catastrophe Insight Report 2023 revealed that natural catastrophes alone resulted in $313 billion in global economic losses. According to the Global Risks Report 2023, natural disasters and extreme weather events rank second in the top ten risks over the next two years. Whether caused by natural hazards such as earthquakes, landslides, hurricanes, and floods, or non-natural hazards such as industrial accidents, terrorist attacks, civil wars, and pandemics, disasters can have significant social, economic, and political consequences. The impacts of these events can have far-reaching and cascading effects on governance, power dynamics, and public policy.

The recent earthquake in Turkey and Syria has highlighted the impact of disasters on a country’s socio-economic status. According to the Global Rapid Post-Disaster Damage Estimation Report 2023 published by the World Bank, the two major earthquakes on February 6 caused direct physical damages estimated at $34.2 billion for Turkey, which accounts for four percent of the country’s 2021 GDP. Syria also experienced damages worth $5.1 billion.

South Asia has been experiencing a series of disasters that have had a significant impact on the region’s development. Unfortunately, poverty, inadequate infrastructure, and ineffective governance have worsened the consequences of these disasters. One major example of their devastating impact can be seen in Bangladesh, where around 7.2 million people were affected by flooding in June 2022. Similarly, Pakistan experienced historic floods the same year, resulting in damages and economic losses exceeding $30 billion.

Nepal is not immune to the consequences of disasters. It is among the 20 most multi-hazard-prone countries in the world. In 2015, the Gorkha earthquake and subsequent aftershocks caused the deaths of approximately 9,000 people and injured around 22,000. The disaster also resulted in loss and damage estimated at $7 billion, equivalent to one-third of Nepal’s GDP. Additionally, severe flooding in August 2017 affected 1.7 million people and caused loss and damage of $585 million, equivalent to three percent of Nepal’s GDP. Despite having a small population of 30 million, Nepal has faced significant impacts from disasters, resulting in high costs in terms of human life and economic damages.

Disasters have far-reaching consequences, affecting not only the physical environment but also the social and economic fabric of society. The loss of life, injuries, and displacement can cause significant trauma and mental health issues for individuals and communities. Disasters also disrupt businesses, leading to lost revenue and decreased productivity. This can result in reduced economic activity, job losses, and a decline in living standards. Additionally, disasters can have a significant impact on the country’s economy, leading to decreased agricultural output and slowed tourism activities.

The physical damage to infrastructure can also make it difficult for people to access essential services. For example, the floods and landslides of 2021 caused damage to physical infrastructure worth $9.9 million in Nepal, making it challenging for people to access critical services such as water supply and electricity. Furthermore, investment in disaster relief efforts, including search and rescue operations, emergency shelters, and reconstruction and rehabilitation, increases government spending. This can have implications for the country’s budget and development priorities.

Disasters can also worsen existing social inequalities, leading to unequal access to relief and rehabilitation measures. Individuals from so-called higher castes or with political affiliations may be more likely to receive humanitarian aid than the actual needy and affected population. This can lead to a breakdown in social order, and criminal activities may increase.

In addition, disasters disrupt the health sector, causing difficulties in accessing medical care, particularly for individuals with pre-existing health conditions. This leads to a significant impact on health outcomes, resulting in increased morbidity and mortality rates. Moreover, climate-induced disasters often force people to evacuate their homes and seek refuge in evacuation centres or camps. The overpopulation in these camps results in reduced access to safe water and sanitation facilities, increasing the risk of waterborne diseases. Therefore, the socio-economic impacts of disasters make people more vulnerable to future disasters.

Reducing Nepal’s vulnerability to disasters is a complex issue that requires a multi-faceted approach. The government has taken several steps to minimise the impact of disasters, including adopting the National Policy and Strategic Action Plan for Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (2018-2030), enacting the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act, establishing various Early Warning Systems, launching the BIPAD portal, creating the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Authority (NDRRMA), providing emergency response training to communities, and offering disaster response training. However, the implementation of these initiatives has been challenging due to insufficient coordination, resources, and capacity.

One of the ways forward to reduce the impact of disasters is increasing awareness among students. The Nepali curriculum and textbooks have not been fully disaster sensitive until now. Incorporating disaster risk reduction (DRR) education into the school curriculum is essential to building a more resilient society. DRR education enhances people’s awareness and knowledge about disasters and how to mitigate the hazards and consequences of such disasters. Schools can develop dedicated modules on DRR, Emergency Preparedness, and Crisis Management Plan (EPCMP). Games, simulations, and other activities (use of case studies and real-life disaster examples) can be done to illustrate concepts and principles related to DRR. This could help build our future generation to cope with the risks and impacts of disasters. Nepal can learn from Japan about incorporating DRR into the school curriculum.

Overall, reducing the impact of disasters requires a comprehensive approach that involves developing a disaster preparedness plan, conducting risk assessments, strengthening early warning systems, and establishing emergency response teams. Inclusive policies in DRR can help reduce the impact of disasters and promote inclusive and sustainable development. Collaboration between governments, the private sector, and educational and research institutes is crucial for disaster resilience. Additionally, prioritising community awareness is essential. Moreover, government and local representatives can play a crucial role in reducing disaster risk by promoting preparedness, coordinating responses, and advocating for policies and programs that support resilience.

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Humanitarian Response from India during Nepal’s Earthquake 2015


The devastating earthquake on 25 April 2015, with a magnitude of 7.6 Richter Scale and hundreds of aftershocks, caused a significant impact on the lives of over eight million people across Nepal. The Post Disaster Needs Assessment, 2015, published by the National Planning Commission, reported more than 8,000 deaths and property damage worth approximately USD 7 billion.

Nepal ranks 11th globally in terms of vulnerability to earthquakes. As soon as the news of the Nepal Earthquake broke, there was overwhelming commitment and subsequent support from the neighbouring countries, and India was the first to respond. It was reported that the then Nepali Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, who was in Bangkok, knew of the earthquake through the Indian Prime Minister’s tweet. India dispatched relief materials and rescue teams immediately.

The Indian government initiated Operation Maitri and launched a humanitarian mission, dispatched National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams and special aircraft with rescue and relief materials in Nepal. India released INR 96 crores (around 154 crore Nepali rupees) to Nepal for housing and school sector assistance. Under the post-earthquake reconstruction package, India allocated a grant of USD 250 million, including USD 50 million each for the education, cultural heritage, and health sector and USD 100 million for the housing sector.

When a crisis occurs, Nepal looks up to India. India, our closest neighbor, has always helped Nepal in the difficult hours. During this crisis, India provided immediate responses and timely decision-making. Furthermore, a swift emergency response was possible because of connected borders, friendly ties and institutional relations between the two nations. Close bilateral relations, including fraternal relations between the two countries’ militaries, provided the basis for swift support.

India experienced some hiccups during the support. Despite widespread help, Indian media faced a backlash for their insensitive reporting, which made the hashtag #GoHomeIndianMedia trend on Twitter. 

The India-imposed economic blockade towards the end of the year escalated the humanitarian crisis, though. Moreover, the blockade un-did the goodwill India had garnered from the support. It has left a long-lasting anti-India sentiment among the general populace. 

Disaster response is an additional dimension in Nepal-India relations. Other disasters such as floods affect both countries. They have established common mechanisms to deal with such issues, but their workings are unsatisfactory. It would benefit both countries to strengthen disaster cooperation, for it is less prone to conflict and garners goodwill for each other.

Research Commentaries

NRC0010 – Nepal Earthquake 2015 at 4: Lessons and Recommendations for Developing South and Southeast Asia

Nepal Earthquake 2015 at 4: Lessons and Recommendations for Developing South and Southeast Asia

Hao Nan


It has been a little more than four years since the massive 7.8 Richter Scale Earthquake hit Nepal on April 25, 2015. Concerted efforts have moved to post-disaster reconstruction phase which, however, is not progressing smoothly. A series of lessons and recommendations can be drawn from Nepal’s experiences for the developing South and Southeast Asian countries that, to a large extent, share the vulnerability to disasters and face the similar potentiality of the problems.


On 25 April 2015, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Gorkha, Nepal, followed by a 7.3 magnitude aftershock, resulting in death of more than 8,800 lives and injury of thousands of people. The earthquake also damaged over 800,000 buildings and monuments, amounting the loss of staggering USD 7 billion. After the immediate relief, concerted efforts moved to the post-earthquake reconstruction, marked by the establishment of National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) and Nepal Risk Reduction Consortium (NRRC).

Given the fact that developing South and Southeast Asia are regions in Asia where disasters often occur including tsunami, earthquake and volcanic eruptions among others, it would be relevant to look at Nepal’s case in the post-earthquake reconstruction in which the bottlenecks are putting the concerted efforts in dilemma and the resulting lessons, I think, are useful for concerned developing countries across the Region.

A. Governance Dilemma: Weak Local Government vs Strong Reconstruction Demand

In general, a local government plays critical roles in post-disaster reconstruction by means of its strength in resource management, information dissemination, collaboration, coordination and balancing related agenda.

However, Nepal has long been suffering from unstable domestic politics. Prior to the 2017 local election, Nepal had major such election in in 1999 and was disrupted by the decade-long Maoist Insurgency that left the local levels with governance vacuum and accountability deficit for two decades. While the local government system was still in the building and was unable to provide enough local information, international humanitarian organizations find it hard to fulfill reconstruction tasks as they have to collaborate with the local government for all related works. Therefore, the reconstruction plan was substantially delayed and caused secondary harms to victims. Such ineffectiveness with an image of corruption also created distrust between the government and the citizens, and also between the government and donors that generated undesirable political and social obstacles.

B. Capacity Dilemma: Lagged-behind Local Capacity vs Impermanent Advanced International Support

Local capacity is important for the long-term and sustainable post-disaster reconstruction, given the humanitarian work normally focuses on the immediate and middle terms, as mandated by the International Committee of the Red Cross, the UN’s designated coordinator for international disaster reduction.

However, Nepal, even though it has over 30 million population, does not have sufficient qualified human resources. This is due to the fact that over 2.2 million skilled Nepali youths are employed outside Nepal and the reconstruction demands some 10,000 skilled manpower that includes engineers, foremen, masons, and carpenters and another 40,000 semiskilled workers, of which only 20% can be met by the existing human capacity and the available resources. Knowledge gap is also huge, given earthquake-resistance has never been part of Nepal’s general engineering education. Meanwhile, few active international humanitarian workers, with insufficient indigenous assistance, had to stay longer and couldn’t effectively reach and serve the most vulnerable groups. Their presence also caused a big amount of donations to be spent in administration and coordination without directly benefiting the victims.

A. Reconstruction without Retrofit

In the developing South Asia and Southeast Asia, informal housing is common and even accommodates many more people than the formal housing does. Therefore, reconstruction should be together with retrofit so to be inclusive for the vulnerable victims.

In Nepal, 80% of settlements were referred as “informal”. However, in the reconstruction, those informal housing residents who did not own land and bore loss of housing were locked out from the reconstruction support. Instead, the government spent much time and resources in works that involved reconstructing the fully damaged 600,000 buildings but failed due to the unbearable cost. In fact, many traditionally informal housings stood after the earthquake, protecting lives and properties, though possessing risks of collapsing. The government did not immediately shift to retrofitting, which substantially delayed the shelter provision to victims.

B. Data-lacking Reconstruction

Big data opens a new door for post-disaster reconstruction because of the possibilities it provides in visualizing, analysing, and predicting natural disasters. However, this brings challenges to the developing South and Southeast Asia in terms of collecting, storing and analysing data due insufficient regular capacity of professionals and resources.

In Nepal’s reconstruction, the long-time absence of the effective local government led to the missing of the basic data about demographics, geography and households. The low levels of electrification and electronization caused from frequent load-shedding also constraints the maximal usage of the data in the process. Without the guiding data, a phenomenon appeared that humanitarian organizations intensively worked in the most accessible regions where they even started to build hotels, and meanwhile, left the less accessible area stranded.

C. Non-localised Reconstruction

Disasters are catalysts for change as they are increasingly recognized as opportunities to direct and navigate change towards aspired outcomes, such as sustainable development goals. Even though Nepal government published a vision, “well-planned resilient settlements and a prosperous society”, for the reconstruction, the country failed to leverage the reconstruction and rather use it as an opportunity to bring about needed changes across disaster affected communities.

Due to the insufficient number of required skilled professionals and also ineffective mobilisation of local personnel, many of the humanitarian donations didn’t reach the real victims. Rather, it was spent on salaries, accommodation and transport for the I/NGO expatriates themselves. Nepal Red Cross Society had spent USD 2.5 billion by 2018 in devastated districts, but the noticeable results of those investments are yet to be seen. Without employing local communities (people) and services, thus spent money cannot be recycled in the local economic system, and therefore cannot boom the local economy.

Policy Recommendations

The policy recommendations proposed below prioritize the works related to knowledge creation and sharing, planning with local communities and building synergy with the partners’ strengths, so to focus more on demand-driven humanitarian efforts that are in line with today’s New Humanitarianism movement.

In short term, reconstruction process should involve local people and services. Moreover, this work should involve the local service providers so as to complement reconstruction works with indigenous knowledge, needs, perceptions, behavioural patterns. Then, the stakeholders should come up with local-oriented, people-centered and disaster-resistant plan and design the overall implementation plan. This plan should prioritise the basic needs of the local people – such as shelters and food. This participatory process can mobilise the ordinary victims to proactively recover from the post-disaster traumas through employment and mutual help, and avoid relying too much on the pre-existing power structure to mis-prioritize the less vulnerable over the most. Meanwhile, an effective government and judicial system should be recovered first, in order to maintain the social order, dissimilate information and deliver the service.

For mid-term activities, reconstruction process should employ data-collection and employment of technologies and equipment to better monitor, analyse and implement the reconstruction works. These should be done after the approval and proactive support of the local stakeholders while also following the compliance requirements of respective local governments’ existing laws and regulations. A disaster-resistant code of building should also be strictly implemented in the rebuilding process, with prioritization of retrofitting the standing buildings. Meanwhile, the technology and equipment transfer and capacity building should be started that ensures creation a sustainable and self-reliant reconstruction system and the process.

In the long term, disaster-resistance and -prevention should be integrated within local school and college curriculums – General subjects and the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects. Also, a more holistic and inclusive awareness campaign should be developed and put in place. In addition, a few disaster risk reduction teams comprising professionals from across professions and sectors should be formed autonomously from the government system with regular international channels for exchange and cooperation. This will help the concerned stakeholders to put aside their political differences and prioritize work on disasters and the related events. This, in a way, helps to avoid the potential negative impacts of local policy and political instability. Finally, a comprehensive contingency plan – that involves key people from the local governments, local communities, technocrats and the disaster experts – should be established and updated regularly, together with contingency reserve resources.

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Publisher’s Note: The Nepal Institute for Policy Research (NIPoRe) publishes occasional well-researched research commentaries on policy issues representing Nepal and countries in South and Southeast Asia authored by researchers around the world to inform and generate policy debates among concerned professionals and stakeholders in Asia.