Cheap, easy trick for rural Nepal against earthquakes

A new technique could improve earthquake-resistance in Nepalese houses Copyright: Wikipedia

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A cheap and easy technique could help rural Nepalese protect their houses from damaging earthquakes, researchers announced on Nepal’s Earthquake Day last week (15 January).

A simple method, developed by scientists at the Nepal Institute of Engineering’s Center for Disaster Studies, fortifies stone and unfired bricks — the main materials used to make village houses — with mud and bamboo, which are easily available locally, as well as gabion wire.

The technique works by punching a one-meter square grid of holes in the wall and covering it with a bamboo net on the inside and outside. Gabion wire is then inserted in the holes to fasten the net, and the holes covered with mud to protect the net.

Since the wire is the only direct cost, researchers say improved earthquake-resistance would cost US$20–30 per house.

Major earthquakes measuring eight or higher on the Richter scale have hit Nepal every 70 to 100 years since 1255 AD and geologists believe the next one is due. Hopefully the trick will help the otherwise wholly unprepared villagers survive.

Thir Bahadur GC, chief of the natural disaster section at Nepal’s home ministry, said the government donates to a central disaster relief fund each year. But he warned there was a shortage of trained rescue workers.

Amod Mani Dixit, of Nepal’s National Society For Earthquake Technology, said earthquakes are a ‘human-friendly’ disaster, which can be prepared for.

Unplanned urbanisation without considering earthquake safety in construction could lead to “serious disaster”, said Dixit.

According to OhmyNews, Nepal’s National Society for Earthquake Technology estimates that if the current state of unpreparedness does not improve, a future earthquake would cause 40,000 deaths, and make some 600,000 to 900,000 people homeless.

The last major earthquake in Nepal occurred in 1934 and killed some 8,500 people.