- Overview of Kathmandu Valley
- Disaster Management in Kathmandu
- Structure and Legislation
- Disaster Management Section under MOHA structures
- Strategies for Disaster Management
- Coordination Forum on Disaster Management
- Risk Management Project
- Works Cited
Kathmandu experienced a sequence of earthquakes in the 20th century. More than eleven thousand people died during an earthquake that occurred in Nepal. Apart from the loss of lives of thousands of people, the government of Nepal was also shaken, and its political and economic positions affected. It is estimated that about 40% of the building that was on the valley were destroyed and more than 25% of the households in Kathmandu.
This was not the first earthquake to shake the region; others with similar magnitude had occurred in the 19th century. It’s believed that there is a seismic zone along the Kathmandu valley, which makes it vulnerable to earthquakes. The scientist has recorded that earthquakes of similar magnitude occur after a period of 75 years. This is a clear indication of the probability of recurrence of other similar earthquakes.
Kathmandu has an approximated growth rate of 6.5 percent, and it is believed that it is one of the biggest urban concentration world wide. The residents of this valley live in fear of the possibility of another earthquake striking the region.
If other earthquakes occur as predicted, more people will lose their lives because of the growth in population, and other damages will occur to the structural makeup and political position. In the view of what has happened in the past earthquakes and the destruction which had been caused, the government did not seem to do much. It did not make attempts to control the growth in population and development despite what had happened before.
Buildings were built without taking considerations of the seismic force, and information concerning the risk of earthquakes was not complete and was only available to isolated agents of the government. This paper seeks to identify the major disasters that have occurred in the Kathmandu valley, the suggested strategies to mitigate them, and the government’s move toward disaster management.
Overview of Kathmandu Valley
Nepal covers a geographical area of about 147,181 square kilometers. It is one of the densely populated countries in the world, with a growing population of about 2.25% annually. It has three regions covering; mountains, Tarai, and hills.
The administration has five regions for development which are: central, eastern, western, and far-western and midwestern. About 47% of the total population in Nepal lives in the Tarai region because of the fertile soil for farming, and 45% live in the hilly regions. Only 8% live in the mountains where the land is not good for agriculture (Shrestha 1).
Out of the total population, 1.5 million live in Kathmandu valley, which is found in Nepal’s urban center. The valley is believed to be fertile, and a variety of food can be grown there. These include vegetables, rice, and wheat. The population in the valley is growing at a very high rate resulting in water and air population, which is becoming an issue.
The valley is characterized by steep slopes, active tectonic processes, flimsy geophysical structures, dense population, high illiteracy rates, and poor economic activities. All these factors make the valley vulnerable to natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, and landslides.
Earthquakes are major disasters in Nepal. They occur in the seismic zone, which resulted from the subduction of the Indian plate. Records about the seismic activities have been there since 1255. The seismic zone in Nepal is made from a system of reactivated faults.
These faults were created when the area near Kathmandu valley started splitting apart, and a rift was formed. The rift that resulted from these activities failed, and a weakness zone was formed under the surface in the earth’s crust. This was made even weaker when other rifting attempts proved unsuccessful.
The faults are said to have made the rock sink into the earth’s crust, making the area of new Madrid weak and prone to earthquakes. Since then, destructive earthquakes have been occurring in Nepal. The highest earthquake to have been recorded occurred in 1934, with a magnitude of 8.4.
More than 4,300 people from Kathmandu valley lost their lives, and structures and buildings were damaged. Two other earthquakes were experienced in 1988, one with a magnitude of 6.5 and the other 6.6 (Balassanian, Cisternas and Melkumyan 74).
Landslides and Floods
Nepal has more than six thousand rivers which flow from north to south at high steep due to the steep terrain. This steep terrain is also rugged with intricate geology. During heavy rainfall (especially during the monsoon seasons), landslides, floods, and debris flow in most of the cities.
This causes a lot of damage to most of the building, which has been built without taking into consideration the risk of natural disasters in this area. Many people lose their lives, and the agricultural land suffers from destruction. In 1993, a major flood occurred in the Tarai region, killing more than one thousand people and left others injured.
Another one again in 1999 and left many destructions (Paudel Omura Kubota and Morita 1). It is predicted that other floods are deemed to occur in the future if something is not done to prevent or mitigate them.
Another natural calamity that affects Nepal’s country is fire. This occurs in periods of high temperatures, especially from April to June. The rural areas are the most affected because of poor construction. Most of the houses in this area are made of timber and are built close to each other, which increases their vulnerability to fire.
Ablaze occurred in 1999 and killed about 39 people; left others injured and affected more than one thousand families. It also caused other destruction to property, houses, and livestock.
The country is not free from epidemics of gastroenteritis, cholera, meningitis, malaria, typhoid, among others, which mainly occurs during summer and winter. This has been facilitated by the lack of good health and sanitation.
Disaster Management in Kathmandu
The growth in urban population, poverty, and socio-economic activities in Kathmandu makes it vulnerable to disasters. The history of earthquakes, floods, landslides, debris flow and fire, and the prediction of future disasters indicate that a major disaster might occur in that area.
There is, therefore, a need to establish strategies aimed at mitigating such occurrence or providing preparedness for the community. The Nepal government has been addressing some of the urgent and basic needs like shelter, food, and clothing, although with very limited finances and technical support.
To fight with the limited resources, the government is searching for strategies that will help in eradicating poverty as well as creating job opportunities for the youths. Disaster management is critical in ensuring sustainable development in any country. This can be done by building communities that can resist disasters. In doing this, the following three areas are very crucial; the socio-economic sector, natural factor, and the legislation (Shrestha 1).
Building a disaster-resistant community can be said to be a community-based approach or a bottom-up approach being viewed from the socio-economic angle. It focuses on products and processes lying emphasizes on the end-users and the local community. The aim of this approach is to provide community awareness, build government capacity, and modify traditional disaster management in urban centers.
Structure and Legislation
Disaster management in Nepal is done in the ministry of home affairs through the department of disaster management and drug control.
It does this through formulating and implementing policies, mitigating disasters, data collection and propagation, and collection of resources and its distribution (Anon. “Kathmandu Valley, Nepal Disaster Risk Management Profile” 7). The ministry of home affairs works in collaboration with 75 district officers who act managers in a natural disaster event.
Disaster Management Section under MOHA structures
|Minister for Home Affairs |
State Minister for Home Affairs
|Joint Secretary |
|Joint Secretary |
Personnel Administration Division
|Citizenship & Arms Section |
Internal Management Section
Financial Administration Section
Parlour & Ceremony Management Section
|Personnel Administration Section |
Police Administration Section
Acts & Rules Consultation Section
|Joint Secretary |
Law & Order Division
Law & Order Maintenance Section
Border and Immigration Section
Local Administration Section
|Joint Secretary |
Planning and Special Service Division
Disaster Management Section
Narcotics Control Section
Planning and Monitoring Section
The principal function of these departments is to co-ordinate and provides awareness to the public and government officials regarding disaster management.
Strategies for Disaster Management
In the last decade, Nepal has been making efforts towards disaster management. The first strategies to be implemented are the Yokohama strategy and the plan of action. Other strategies have been initiated in the governmental and governmental institutions. Some of the disaster risk management strategies implemented by Nepal NGOs have been found to be so successful that they are being emulated by other countries. They include:
- Earthquake risk management,
- Programs of risk management in schools
- Disaster preparedness and planning programs in communities and districts
Coordination Forum on Disaster Management
In late 1999, the United Nations (UN) agencies inaugurated a project on preparedness. The aim of the initiative was to help people in need in the event of disasters in the Kathmandu valley. The agencies of the UN are required to recognize and maintain a level of preparedness that can be effective in times of disasters (Anon. “Disaster Management” 2).
Other groups have been working hand in hand with the government of Nepal to ensure that risks are mitigated. These are health, logistics and food and agriculture. They were recognized after the disasters that occurred in Nepal in 1993.
The objectives behind the formation of these groups was to establish a communication channel between the government and international body for the provision of financial and technical advice in the event of a disaster, to work with the governmental and governmental organizations in identification of societal needs after a disaster and to assess, analyze and interpret data from the evaluation carried out and then devise strategies to be used for intervention.
Risk Management Project
The government has not done much in terms of disaster management. To add to the government’s efforts, a project called Kathmandu Valley Earthquake Risk Management was launched. The aims of launching the project were: to,
- Evaluate the threat of earthquakes and to come up with an arrangement that would help alleviate these threats.
- look for ways of plummeting the susceptibility of earthquakes in schools
- provide understanding to the public, intercontinental associations and officials of the government about the risk of earthquakes
- Erect foundations that would guarantee the stability of the project’s work.
By early 1999, the Kathmandu valley risk management project had managed to assemble about eighty institutions from the government and non-government institutions for the purpose of developing an Action plan (Anon. “Kathmandu Valley Earthquake Risk Management” 3)
In January, an earthquake safety day was conducted, and Nepal’s prime minister released and certified the action plan. The risk management project organized by GHI sought to strengthen the governmental and non-governmental institutions and established other institutions for disaster risk management.
One of the outcomes of the project was the strengthening of the National Society for Earthquake Technology- Nepal (NSET), which is still the effective leader of risk assessment in the region. The project created a disaster management unit for the government.
Other municipalities have been working with NSET for the establishment of other risk management strategies. Some officials have benefited from the training offered by NSET, which has been extending to the community organizations and the valley’s residents (Anon. “Kathmandu Valley Earthquake Risk Management” 4).
In the action plan, which was certified by the prime minister there, were ten initiatives that were made clear and put into practice for the purpose of improving awareness to disaster management, strengthening schools, and enforcing building regulations. Schools were provided with safety measures, and demonstrations were made on how to mitigate risks.
The majority of the population in Nepal live in Kathmandu valley. The valley is believed to be fertile, and a variety of food can be grown there. These include vegetables, rice, and wheat. The population in the valley is growing at a very high rate resulting in water and air population, which is becoming an issue.
The valley is characterized by steep slopes, active tectonic processes, flimsy geophysical structures, dense population, high illiteracy rates, and poor economic activities. Kathmandu valley has been experiencing natural disasters since the 19th century.
Disaster management in Nepal is done in the ministry of home affairs through the department of disaster management and drug control. In late 1999, the United Nations (UN) agencies inaugurated a project on preparedness. The aim of the initiative was to help people in need in the event of disasters in the Kathmandu valley.
The agencies of the UN are required to recognize and maintain a level of preparedness that can be effective in times of disasters. The Kathmandu valley risk management project was launched to work with the government in managing disasters. One of the outcomes of the project was the strengthening of the National Society for Earthquake Technology- Nepal (NSET), which is still the effective leader of risk assessment in the region.
Anon. “Kathmandu Valley Earthquake Risk Management Kathmandu.” GeoHazards International, 2009.
Anon. “Kathmandu Valley: Nepal Disaster Risk Management Profile.” Emi, 2005.
Anon. “Disaster Management.” UN Nepal Information Platform, 2008.
Balassanian Sergiei, Cisternas Armando and Melkumyan Mikael. Earthquake hazard and seismic risk reduction Volume 12 of Advances in natural and technological hazards research. Springer, 2000
Paudel Prem, Omura Hiroshi, Kubota Tetsuya and Morita Koichi. Landslide damage and disaster management system in Nepal. Disaster prevention and management, 2003.
Shrestha Bijaya K. Building a Disaster Resistant Community in Kathmandu: A Community Based Approach. United Nations Centre for Regional Development (UNCRD), 2008.