The Nepal earthquake 2015 and its consequences
By Nil Saru, assisted by Rojina Gyawali, NBSM & Associates
It took a while for the noise to build up. Nepal is the eleventh most earthquake prone country in the world. On Saturday, 25 April 2015, at 11:56 local time, a 7.6 magnitude earthquake (as recorded by Nepal’s National Seismological Centre [NSC]), struck Barpak in the historic district of Gorkha, about 76 km northwest of Kathmandu. Nepal had not faced an earthquake of comparable magnitude for over 80 years.
The catastrophic earthquake was followed by more than 500 aftershocks, which occurred throughout the country at intervals of 15–20 minutes. One aftershock, on 26 April 2015 at 12:54, registered 6.7 on the Richter scale.
Hundreds of thousands of people were made homeless. Entire villages were flattened across many districts of the country. Buildings which had stood for centuries were destroyed at UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Kathmandu Valley, including some at the Kathmandu Durbar Square, Patan Durbar Square, Bhaktapur Durbar Square, Changu Narayan Temple and Swayambhunath Stupa. Geophysicists and other experts had warned for decades that Nepal was vulnerable to a deadly earthquake, particularly because of its geology, urbanisation and architecture.
To date, approximately 9,070 casualties and 23,447 injuries have been recorded. It is estimated that the lives of eight million people, almost one-third of the population of Nepal, have been impacted by this earthquake. Out of 75 districts of the country, 31 districts have been hugely affected, with about 2.8 million people displaced.
The economic effect of the earthquake in Nepal
Economists have long considered Nepal to be vulnerable to a natural disaster such as this. There is no doubt that in Nepal, outgoings are far greater than income. This devastating earthquake did not only cause GDP to slump, but also caused physical damage equivalent to one third of GDP. Overall economic growth in FY 2014/15, which had previously been estimated to hit 6%, was confined to just 3%.
The tourism industry, one of the major pillars of the Nepalese economy, also experienced great losses following the earthquake. Four out of seven world heritage sites were destroyed. The tourism sector accounts for 7% of jobs in Nepal and for 8% of the economy overall. However, it is now unclear when the tourism industry will pick up again.
According to Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) estimates, the cumulative damage and loss amount to 33.3% of GDP (USD 7.1 billion) and the cumulative need for recovery is estimated to be USD 6.7 billion (31.5% of GDP). Of the total estimated recovery needs, about 50% is for rebuilding private housing and settlements. Manufacturing and infrastructure clusters need 17.3% and 11.1% respectively. These amount to roughly 5.5% and 3.5% of GDP respectively. The recovery needs requirement for agriculture, education, electricity, and transport is estimated at USD 156 million, USD 397 million, USD 186 million and USD 282 million respectively. Furthermore, recovery of the tourism sector and restoration of cultural heritage sites are estimated to total USD 387 million and USD 206 million respectively.
Who is helping Nepal?
From near and far, countries around the world are mobilising to respond to the devastating earthquake. The foreign aid of 205.89 billion was expected to receive for the construction in the aftermath of earthquake. The Indian National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Indian Air Force and Indian Army Medical Corps were the first foreign contingents to land in Kathmandu within hours of the disaster to help launch relief operations. Over time, 134 international SAR teams from 34 countries responded to Nepal’s request for help.
Emergency relief and humanitarian assistance to the affected population was provided with the active support and contribution of over 60 countries as well as the United Nations and other international agencies. A UN flash appeal for support was launched on 29 April 2015 which hoped to raise a sum of USD 422 million to meet critical humanitarian needs. To date, USD 129.1 million, or 31%, of the appeal has been raised. Donors such as UNCF, USAID, EU, ADB, United Mission to Nepal, Save the Children, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Government of Australia and the World Food Program are among the most significant donors to Nepal.
NBSM & GGI’s Contribution
NBSM and its team helped earthquake- affected people with relief packages containing food, clothes, etc. GGI also donated more than USD 3,000 through NBSM to the earthquake victims in Nepal. In response to the disaster, NBSM organised different awareness programs aimed at helping earthquake victims to quickly recover physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Reconstruction rehabilitation and status
The FY2016 budget is primarily focused on rehabilitation and reconstruction of physical and social infrastructure, housing and livelihoods after the catastrophic earthquake. Reconstruction work is scheduled to be completed within the next five years. This is the most prominent item on the agenda. In order to promptly complete reconstruction work in a sustainable, long-lasting and timely manner, in addition to promoting national interests and providing social justice by resettling displaced people and families, the Legislature-Parliament has passed an act which deals with the reconstruction of earthquake-affected infrastructures and established a National Reconstruction Authority, a national body that has extraordinary jurisdiction. The NRA has already prepared a recovery framework on post-earthquake reconstruction in line with the Post Disaster Needs Assessment. It aims to complete reconstruction work which follows a plan expected to be implemented as soon as possible. The committee has also approved INR 290 million for administrative expenditure in the expanded organisational structure. The NRA has also authorised a central project implementation under a local development ministry to distribute a relief fund amounting to USD 2.49 million. This will help conduct the relief operation based in Singati, which is located in Dolakha district.
Natural disasters are beyond human control. When an earthquake occurs the first thing is to identify the areas and sectors affected by it. This allows proper decisions to me taken with regard to what needs to be done in each sector to recover effectively. The way forward will not be easy in view of the huge challenges.
The implementation of the ”Build Back Better” project with resilient infrastructure and social inclusion is necessary. However, the definition of building back better should be expanded to include sustained improvements in overall healthcare services, education systems and effective governance. The pledged aid should be fully spent. For this, the government needs to come up with viable project proposals and address concerns related to the budget execution capacity and governance structure of the proposed authority. The reconstruction activities should be linked with the development of a longterm economic development vision, which includes increasing per capita income to the level of a middle-income country by 2030.
6. PDNA Report by National Planning Commission
11. Website of National Reconstruction Authority, Nepal
Published: March 2016 l Photo: Colourbox.de - Thomas Limberg