“Geohazards are common and natural phenomena in this region. However, due to changed socioeconomic conditions the vulnerability and risks are increasing,” says Arun Bhakta Shrestha, lead author of the study released by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in May.
“More settlements are now in risky areas because of various reasons including poverty, lack of awareness, short-term benefits etc.,” adds Shrestha.
Apart from the deaths, the quake affected the lives of some eight million Nepalis — almost one-third of the country's population. It pushed more than 700,000 people into poverty and damaged 755,549 houses, 498,852 of them completely, according to the study. Many buildings that sustained structural damage are yet to be recorded.
Also destroyed were heritage sites, schools, health facilities, water supply systems, agricultural land, trekking routes, hydropower plants and other infrastructure. Geohazards induced by the quake include river channel constriction and damming, avalanches with debris flow and airburst. According to the data gathered by researchers from many different institutions, the earthquake and its aftershocks triggered more than 4,300 landslides, 95 per cent of them in Nepal and the remainder in the adjoining areas of the Tibet Autonomous Region, China.
“New data has revealed that the quake did not release all of the stress that had built up underground along the Himalayan arc,” says David Molden, director-general, ICIMOD. “Due to the residual stress, likelihood of another large earthquake occurring in the future remains.”
The study stresses the importance of improving access to and understanding of geospatial data, products, and tools. It also highlights the need for designing custom information services, and building institutional capacity to increase the appropriate use and demand for such information.
“We hope that the findings and the recommendations provided by the authors in this publication will help policy and decision makers in Nepal and other regional member-countries in their efforts to prepare for geohazards and improve geohazard management,” Molden says.
This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s South Asia desk.