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Photo: RSS

A research conducted by Dr Robinson at Durham University has revealed a change in the comprehension of seismic risk in Nepal. Contrary to the prevailing perception, the study brings attention to a stark reality regarding the vulnerability of Kathmandu to earthquakes. Over nine million Nepalis living outside Kathmandu are at a higher risk of earthquakes compared to those in the capital city.

The epicenter of this seismic hazard is prominently located in the remote and rural western regions of Nepal, challenging conventional assumptions about the location of the highest level of risk.

The government of Nepal, being the primary authority entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring the safety and well-being of its citizens, holds a crucial role in the mitigation of seismic risk. Notwithstanding the concerning conclusions of the Durham University study, it appears that the government has not adequately fulfilled its responsibility in formulating and executing all-encompassing earthquake preparedness initiatives, specifically in the western regions. The insufficient attention and response were highlighted by the Jajarkot earthquake of 2023, a seismic event with a magnitude of 6.4, which led to a distressing loss of lives. It serves as a somber reminder of the consequences that can arise from shortcomings in preparedness measures.

The seismic disaster that occurred in Nepal in 2015 serves as a significant reminder, not only for the nation itself but also for the international community. The occurrence of this disaster has exposed several weaknesses in Nepal’s disaster management and emergency response systems, necessitating a reassessment of approaches and priorities. One of the key lessons learned from this unfortunate incident is the critical importance of implementing strong early warning systems. The earthquake that occurred in 2015 highlighted the critical need for the implementation of early warning systems. These systems should be capable of promptly notifying at-risk regions, particularly in the western areas where the likelihood of seismic activity is highest. These systems can offer significant time for individuals to ensure their safety and for authorities to effectively allocate resources.

In addition, it is recommended that Nepal places a higher priority on enhancing the resilience of its infrastructure. This involves the construction of buildings that are designed to withstand earthquakes and the modification of existing structures to enhance their resilience against seismic activity. It is important to ensure strict adherence to building codes and standards in order to effectively mitigate the impact of earthquakes on both urban and rural landscapes.

Community engagement is a crucial component within the framework of earthquake preparedness. Facilitating the active engagement of local communities in disaster preparedness and response endeavors can greatly bolster the nation’s resilience. The utilization of local knowledge, grassroots initiatives, and community-driven disaster management plans can play a crucial role in mitigating the impact of earthquakes and facilitating a prompt and coordinated response.

It is important that the government assumes responsibility for the development, execution, and upkeep of earthquake preparedness initiatives. The scope of accountability should be expanded to include not only Kathmandu but also high-risk regions such as the western areas of Nepal. The implementation of comprehensive policies, appropriate allocation of funding, and efficient execution of disaster mitigation measures are crucial in ensuring the protection and welfare of the nation’s populace.

Nepal finds itself at a crucial point in its endeavors to tackle seismic risk and enhance earthquake preparedness. The research conducted by Dr Robinson and the insights gained from the 2015 earthquake highlight the urgency and importance of taking prompt and thorough measures, particularly in the western regions. It is imperative for the government, in conjunction with its international partners, to adopt a proactive approach in bolstering earthquake resilience and safeguarding the well-being of its citizens. It is incumbent upon us all to collectively glean insights from past tragedies and endeavor to construct a more resilient future for Nepal.

Bhandari is MEAL and Data Insight Officer at The Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad, United Kingdom.