Bringing science and development together through news and analysis

Nepalis still on unstable ground one year after quake

The Gorkha earthquake that struck Nepal a year ago this week killed nearly 9,000 people. It also unleashed more than 10,000 landslides. Many buildings and other key pieces of infrastructure survived the shaking only to be crushed by rockfalls and debris flows.
The most violent such event occurred in the Langtang Valley, a popular tourism destination 70 kilometres north of Kathmandu, where 15 million tonnes of ice and rocks crashed several kilometres down onto the valley floor with an impact that released nearly half the energy of the Hiroshima nuclear bomb. The avalanche engulfed Langtang and nearby villages, leaving nearly 400 people dead or missing.
But destruction doesn’t stop when the shaking did. The landscape, now severely weakened by the quake, is more prone to failure — a legacy that is likely to endure and be exacerbated by rain and aftershocks for years to come. This poses an enormous challenge for quake recovery. The Araniko Highway that connects Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, with Tibet, for instance, is barely operational after continuing to be hit by landslides. This cuts off one of Nepal’s trade lifelines at a cost of about US$1.5 million a day.
Landslide hazards also make it difficult to determine what reconstruction sites are geologically safe. In addition to rigorous hazard mapping, researchers call for close monitoring of changes in slope properties and how they respond to monsoons and aftershocks.
Such studies could allow researchers to determine the amount of rainfall that could trigger a landslide and identify signs of deformation days before one occurs. This offers a real prospect of an effective early-warning system for a problem that increasingly plagues the Himalayan nations.
This photo gallery visits quake-stricken regions in Nepal, including villages along the Araniko Highway and the Langtang Valley.
The trip was made possible by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting
We encourage you to republish this article online and in print, it’s free under our creative commons attribution license, but please follow some simple guidelines:
  1. You have to credit our authors.
  2. You have to credit SciDev.Net — where possible include our logo with a link back to the original article.
  3. You can simply run the first few lines of the article and then add: “Read the full article on SciDev.Net” containing a link back to the original article.
  4. If you want to also take images published in this story you will need to confirm with the original source if you're licensed to use them.
  5. The easiest way to get the article on your site is to embed the code below.
For more information view our media page and republishing guidelines.