Nepal Earthquake- 2015
Buddhi Narayan Shrestha
A great earthquake of 7.9 Richter Scale occurred on 25 April 2015 at 11.56 AM in Nepal at Gorkha district Barpak area, south of China border. After 32 minutes it happened another earthquake measuring 6.5 Scale. Next day, it released another 6.9 Richter larger category earthquake. After the main tremor, more than 394 after shocks occurred till 32 days of the first tremor.
This made a terror and horror around the country. The natural disaster made hundreds of thousands of people homeless with entire villages flattened, across many districts of the country. Out of 75 administrative districts of Nepal, 14 districts have been highly affected and the other 17 districts are of moderately affected. It made hundreds of people penniless and destroyed innumerable physical infrastructure and heritage of historical importance.
Low income country like Nepal is the most affected by the earthquake because it does not have the required resources, infrastructure, and well established earthquake preparedness system. This disaster has affected the country in numerous ways as roads, telephone lines, monuments, transportation and communication links were destroyed. Public utilities and energy supplies were disrupted.
Reasons of earthquake in Nepal
45 million years ago, the Indian continent collided into Southern Tibet. The Indian continent is driven under Tibet, pushing lightweight sediments upwards and thus the formation of the Himalayas were taken place. Nepal sits across the boundary between India and southern Tibet of China which are still moving towards each other by 2 centimeters per year. This movement creates pressure within the earth, which builds up and can only be released through earthquakes. This is the only way earthquakes could happen in Nepal.
Due to continental collision, the Indian sub-continent pushes against Eurasian (Tibetan) Plateau as pressure will be accumulated and it uses to release in the form of earthquakes. It is notable that the constant crashing of the two plates formed the Himalayan mountain range.
Some Chinese, Japanese, American and British geologists, geophysics, and seismologists say that Nepal earthquake-2015 bears a typical and strange behavior than the previous quakes. It showed rather different nature with the quake of the rest of the world. It is commendable to make further research and detail study how this type of unusual character revealed by this Nepal earthquake. After the great earthquake of 25 April 2015, Nepal has become a laboratory of the world for the researchers of this field. Some of them have started to make a thorough and detail study and field-based on the spot research; how and why a chunk of 65 kilometer wide and 130 kilometer long landmass of Kathmandu area is being pushed its geographical position 3 kilometer south and south-west having 5.2 meter high in altitude. They are analyzing the behaviour of 265 aftershocks, as the frequency goes low and low in some weeks and in some other week it went suddenly higher Richter and then again down and down and again up.
Devastating earthquake of 25 April 2015 was released after 81 years of the last great earthquake in 1934 AD. If we look three hundred years history of the occurrence of the great earthquakes in Nepal, it faced in 1682, 1768, 1811, 1833, 1934 and the recent one in 2015. The largest one was of 8.4 Richter scale in 1934.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Kathmandu, the tectonic plate under the city shifted southwards 3 meter over another plate along an ancient Himalayan fault line, releasing a seismic shock wave with the strength of ‘more than 20 thermonuclear weapons.’
Damage caused by great earthquake-2015
According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, recent great earthquake killed 8,617 persons and 16,808 people have been injured. 70 foreigners have been killed and 108 are out of contact. Number of private houses and buildings fully destroyed reached as 494,437 and partially damaged houses have been counted as 265,736. Near about 824 government buildings have been fully destroyed and 2,507 partially damaged. Those who lost their houses are staying in tents as temporary shelter. It is intended to construct more or less a little bit better shelter, as the monsoon rainy season would start from June.
Twenty-four countries including China, India, Israel, USA, UK and Japan military personnels for rescue operation and relief material distribution. They offered ready made foods and tents, blankets and mattress on destruction sites directly. Some of the countries brought their helicopters and high speed small military aircrafts with sensible trained dogs to conduct aftermath rescue operation. Some countries brought also drone to expose and create the real time data of the damaged structures.
According to the Department of Archaeology, nearly 90 percent of ancient monuments, temples and archaeological structures in the Kathmandu Valley are either fully destroyed or partially damaged by the recent earthquake. Centuries-old buildings were destroyed at UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Kathmandu Valley, including some at the Kathmandu Durbar Square, the Patan Durbar Square and the Bhaktapur Durbar Square.
More than 600 temples, statues and museum across the country were damaged in Nepal’s deadliest earthquake on record, including Kathmandu’s 200-foot Dharahara Tower, built in 1832, which collapsed within a minute. The devastating earthquake that rocked the country on 25 April damaged 116 heritage monuments only in the historic town of Bhaktapur. Of them, 67 were completely damaged while 49 have suffered partial damage, according to the Executive Officer of Bhaktapur Municipality. Such is the condition of Patan and Kathmandu Metropolitan City.
Educational institutions too were hit hard on April 25. According to data collected, a total of 12,483 classrooms of 4,389 schools in 41 districts have been completely destroyed.
The devastating earthquake has badly hit the country’s power sector as well, causing damage to more than 20 hydro-projects that were either generating electricity or were under construction. Data provided by the Independent Power Producers Association of Nepal and Nepal Electricity Authority show that quake affected operational hydro-electric projects with installed capacity of at least 176.8 megawatts. The damage caused by the earthquake has shaken investor confidence, as projects that have been forced to suspend power generation, will lose income source till the time everything is fixed. According to the preliminary survey of Nepal Electricity Authority, thousands of equipments such as distribution transformer, power transformer, steel poll, distribution panel board etc have been dismantled which may cost 5,000 million Rupees.
The earthquake has not only inflicted heavy human casualty but dealt a big blow to livestock, poultry and other sector related to agriculture. According to the data released by the Ministry of Agricultural Development, at least 8,031 buffaloes, cows and oxen; 14,495 goats, sheep and pigs and 147,222 poultry were buried under the debris of structures that collapsed during the earthquake.
The geomorphologists estimate that hilly areas will face a high risk of landslides in the upcoming monsoon rainy season where there are ruptures and holes. Geologists are having fear that such natural events could result in landslide disaster along main highways.
Government policy for the time being
The government has set to put a two-month ban on approval of design for new houses and overall constructions. It is felt that poor implementation of building code has resulted in massive human casualties in recent earthquakes. The Ministry of Local Development is preparing to limit houses within three storeys. Officials have been discussing whether the limit will apply to big complexes that are built on bigger spaces following the safety requirements. Commercial complexes may be permitted to build taller structures if they meet all the requirements with the suitability of soil capability.
Initial assessments by authorities have found that among the newly built structures mainly those constructed without acquiring municipal clearance were worst affected by the quake. The Ministry of Urban Development says- the proposed building code may necessitate the land to pass “risk-sensitive” tests before clearance and professional engineers to prepare a blueprint for buildings.
The government has completed Rapid Post Disaster Assessment (RPDA) of 26 high-rises, 134 buildings of 78 government offices, including 96 buildings of 20 hospitals in the Kathmandu Valley. According to the Department of Urban Development and Building Construction (DUDBC), the assessment has marked two high rise apartments, 14 government offices outside Singha Durbar (government central secretariat), five offices within Singha Durbar and five hospitals within the Kathmandu valley as unsafe for immediate use.
Residential houses and high-rise buildings in the city which had sustained minor to serious damages in the great quake of April 25 and a number of subsequent aftershocks have been further affected by the quake that shook the country on 12th May. While residential houses that had suffered serious damages during the 25th April quake have been reduced to rubble by 12th May quake, a number of houses and commercial buildings have suffered severe damages and are in a vulnerable state.
In the mean time, the government has restricted construction of new buildings taller than two storeys (including ground floor) and not to approve the blue-prints of new houses until mid-July 2015. No joint housing and land plotting (development) projects to receive permission until mid-July 2015. Joint housing design permit from the next fiscal year will be based on soil tests and soil bearing capacity. Residents of the areas where large percentage of houses were destroyed or damaged by the April 25 great earthquake want to government to test the soil and feel them that their areas are safe for those buildings that are still standing. The government has formed four sub-committees to prepare a report on how safe buildings could be constructed, along with land use policy. It is believed by preliminary observations that houses suffered damage mostly in areas with low water table above normal level and unstable sloping areas.
Nepal Land and Housing Developers’ Association (NLHDA)
Nepal Land and Housing Developers’ Association (NLHDA) is a parent organization of land and housing developing companies of Nepal. It is registered in the Nepal Government Company Registrar’s Office and is paying taxes and revenue to the government. NLHDA has more than 88 registered housing and land development companies, who are providing services to the people to fulfill the need for housing. NLHDA is the country member of International Real Estate Federation (FIABCI) and Asia Pacific Regional Secretariat. It is also the Commodity Member of Federation of Nepalese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) and Nepal Chamber of Commerce (NCC). NLHDA member companies have developed near about 8,000 unit housings in high rise buildings, apartments in and around the capital city Kathmandu Valley and in some other districts. Of them 4,700 units have been already sold and nearly 3,300 units still have to be sold.
Some of the high rise buildings got crack. Some other apartments got plaster broken by the recent earthquake. There are no structural damage in most of the high rise buildings constructed by 24 developers. however, there are some 30 to 40 percent non-structural partial damage on brick wall, partition wall and cosmetic plaster. After some repair work it will be alright. Two of the dwelling apartment building apartments occurred damage and it is not feasible to stay at the moment.
In this situation, after the occurrence of recent great earthquake in Nepal, now housing is a felt need for those who lost their dwellings during earthquake. NLHDA has a programme to construct light weight pre-fabric earthquake resistance low cost and environment friendly homes for the earthquake affected Nepali people. We are consulting with the Ministry of Urban Development and Department of Urban Development and Building Construction (DUDBC) to meet the challenges of housing need for the earthquake victims. It may need huge amount of money to construct homes for homeless.
The government has provided Rs. 40,000 to the relatives of the deceased person for the ritual performances of the dead body. Rastra (Central) Bank of Nepal has circulated to all the commercial banks to provide housing loan up to Rs. 2.5 million with 2 percent interest for 20 years period. Very recently the government has decided to provide Rs. 15,000 for each earthquake victims to buy corrugated zinc sheets and other materials to build temporary shelter.
International donor’s conference
Nepal government is intended to host an international donor’s conference in Kathmandu by June end to raise fund for post-disaster reconstruction. The government is preparing a comprehensive post-disaster needs assessment report based on damage incurred across the country due to the April 25 earthquake and its 280 aftershocks. The focus of the conference is to seek money from donor agencies such as World Bank, Asian Development Bank and International Monetary Fund as well as from all friendly countries. According to the Ministry of Finance at least US$ 500 billion would be required for reconstruction work that includes rebuilding more than 800,000 damaged structures, including private houses, office buildings and historical and cultural sites.
Friendly countries have shown interest in organizing this meeting abroad. Japan and India have formally shown interest in convening the conference in their own countries. The United Nations too is of the opinion that it would be better to organize the conference abroad as tremors are continuing and normalcy is yet to return to Nepal. But Nepal government is in the opinion that if the conference is convened in Nepal, the participating delegates will have chance to directly assess the extent of damage and know how much support Nepal needs to recover from this natural disaster.
In this context, Nepal Land and Housing Developers’ Association (NLHDA) is intended to launch a reconstruction program of ‘Shelter for Homeless Earthquake Victims’ especially in the affected settlements within Kathmandu Valley, in the first phase.
NLHDA is going to raise funds internally and internationally through the members of FIABCI. It is commendable that the Board Chairman of the FIABCI Asia Pacific Regional Secretariat, Dato’ Alan Tong and Exco has extended an assistance with a donation of 10,000 Euro to NLHDA. We would like to appreciate and thank Dato’ Alan Tong for his sensible assistance for the homeless earthquake victims of Nepal. NLHDA appeals to all FIABCI members and real estate business houses of the world to join Nepal Land and Housing Developers Association to materialize the reconstruction program ‘Shelter for Homeless Victims of Nepal Earthquake-2015.’ Those who wish to donate and contribute as a benevolent charity to the earthquake affected homeless Nepali people, NLHDA would like to request to contact in the following address. Account of the expenses will be definitely sent to the concerned donor and stakeholders after the completion of the project.