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About this book

This book addresses earthquakes, with a special focus on the Ghorka earthquake, which struck parts of central Nepal in April 2015. Drawing on this disastrous event, it closely examines various aspects of earthquakes in contributions prepared by international experts. The topics covered include: the geological and geophysical background of seismicity; a detailed inventory of the damage done by the earthquake; effective damage prevention through earthquake-safe buildings and settlements; restoration options for world-heritage buildings; strategies for providing technical and medical relief and, lastly, questions associated with public life and economy in a high-risk seismic zone.

Combining perspectives from various fields, the book presents the state of the art in all earthquake-related fields and outlines future approaches to risk identification, damage prevention, and disaster management in all parts of society, administration, and politics in Nepal. Beyond the specific disaster in Nepal, the findings presented here will have broader implications for how societies can best deal with disasters.

Table of Contents


Earthquakes as Events of Inter- and Intra-disciplinary Character—With Special Reference to the Gorkha 2015 Earthquake in Nepal

Earthquakes are catastrophes that affect all parts of a society and a country. Consequently, they have to be examined integratively and measures of restoration and precaution have to include not only safer rebuilding and damage minimization but many more fields, such as economy, infrastructure or social structure of the society. Using the example of the Gorkha 2015 earthquake in Nepal, geoscientific, technical, medical, economic, social, political and legislative aspects of such a catastrophe are presented and discussed in detail as well as with respect to the special situation in a developing country. Particularly, the connections and interactions between all these fields are emphasized. In addition, suggestions are presented, in which way preparedness of the society on all levels of technical and medical precaution, administration, politics and not least with respect to culture and social structure can be reached and resilience towards future earthquakes and other catastrophes can be increased.

Jörn H. Kruhl, Rameshwar Adhikari, Uwe E. Dorka

Earthquakes and Related Hazards


Should All of Nepal Be Treated as Having the Same Earthquake Hazard?

Current earthquake hazard maps for Nepal predict substantial variations in hazard within the nation, with noticeable differences between maps. We thus suggest that given present knowledge, all of Nepal may be better regarded as equally hazardous and perhaps vulnerable to much larger earthquakes than those currently known because of their long recurrence times. This proposal is based on the limitations of the historical earthquake record, the recognized deficit in seismic moment release, and GPS data showing a similar level of coupling along the arc. Support for using smoother maps can be had from analysis for Japan, which is also located on and parallel to a subduction boundary, showing that in some ways the hazard maps may be overparameterized, in that including too high a level of detail may lower the maps’ ability to predict shaking. Treating Nepal’s hazard as uniform and developing mitigation strategies accordingly may help reduce damage in future earthquakes.

Seth Stein, Edward M. Brooks, Bruce D. Spencer, Mian Liu

Analysis of Landslides Triggered by the 2015 Gorkha Earthquake, Nepal

On 25 April 2015, 7.8 Mw earthquake “Gorkha earthquake” struck central Nepal. Its epicenter was located 77 km northwest of Kathmandu near Barpak village in Gorkha District. The focus of the Gorkha earthquake was at a depth of approx. 15 km (considered shallow and therefore more damaging). On May 12, 2015, a major aftershock of 7.3 Mw followed the main shock. The Gorkha earthquake and its aftershocks caused thousands of human casualties and extensive damages, and triggered a large number of landslides of various types, including highly disrupted shallow slides, rock falls, and large-scale avalanches. An avalanche at Mount Everest killed at least 19 and another huge avalanche in the Langtang Valley killed about 350 people. The widespread landslides occurrence is posing a great threat to post-earthquake reconstruction. Field investigations and image interpretation identified thousands of landslides in affected districts of central Nepal. This provides a basis for better understanding and illustrating the distribution pattern of landslides triggered by the Gorkha earthquake and of the hazards related to them. The coseismic landslides were analyzed with respect to landslide causing and triggering factors, in order to characterize the spatial characteristics of landslides and to highlight the future hazard and risk. Slope angle and geology are the most significant parameters and potential ground acceleration values reflect an anomalous correlation with respect to landslide locations. The frequency ratio method was adopted for landslide susceptibility or hazard modelling. A landslide hazard map was generated and classified into five categories: very low, low, medium, high, and very high. 39.1% of the most affected areas belongs to very low and low classes with corresponding 5.9% of the inventoried landslides. Medium hazard zone makes up 37.1% of the area with 29.7% of the landslides. The rest of the area is classified into high and very high levels, which makes up 23.7% of the area with corresponding 64.3% of the total landslides. The verification of results indicates satisfactory agreement between the presumptive hazard map and the existing data on landslide locations. Consequently, there is a good correlation between areas defined as representing “high” hazard and the known landslides. The hazard map not only reveals the likelihood of future landslides and debris flows. It is also helpful for the relocation of displaced people and for reconstruction strategies.

Prem Bahadur Thapa

The 1985 (M8.1) Michoacán Earthquake and Its Effects in Mexico City

The September 19, 1985 M8.1 earthquake west of Michoacán, Mexico, due to shallow subduction of Cocos plate beneath the North American plate. This mega-thrust inverse faulting event broke about 200 km along the boundary of the Mexican subduction zone in the Pacific coast of Michoacán. This earthquake consisted of two main sub-events at 16 km depth, separated 27s in time and about 95 km SE in distance. Thirty-six hours later, a major M7.5 aftershock occurred in the SE edge of the same area. The 1985 earthquake caused enormous damages, even at distances of up to 300 km from the epicenter. This was the case of Mexico City in which the maximum accelerations recorded reached 0.17 g, exceeding building codes limits (Anderson et al. in Science 233:1043–1049, 1986), and spectral amplifications and duration were unprecedented (Singh et al. in Bull Seism Soc Am 78:451–477, 1988). The official account reported more than six thousand buildings destroyed or seriously damaged and estimated between 10,000 and 35,000 persons missing or dead. After this earthquake, seismic monitoring systems have been developed and improved. The building codes are often revised and regular monitoring of structures is currently done after earthquakes to keep safer standards. In the same vein, a number of educational programs were developed to promote a culture of prevention. It is claimed that the 1985 earthquake generated a widespread solidarity and awareness among city dwellers. On September 19th, 2017, an intraplate earthquake M7.1, hit Central Mexico again, causing extensive building damage, testing the effectiveness of developed programs implemented after the 1985 earthquake.

Alejandra Arciniega-Ceballos, Marcela Baena-Rivera, Francisco J. Sánchez-Sesma

Damage, Prevention, Restoration


Lessons from Building Damage Patterns During April 25, 2015 Gorkha Earthquake in Nepal

The April 25, 2015 Gorkha Earthquake of Magnitude 7.8 in Nepal damaged about seven hundred thousand buildings. The main typologies of buildings in the affected area are stone masonry with mud mortar, some buildings with stone and brick masonry with cement/sand mortar and few reinforced concrete buildings with masonry infill. Among the damaged buildings, about 96% of the buildings were masonry and about 4% reinforced concrete buildings with masonry infill. This study conducted detailed damage assessment of over 150,000 buildings of different type of masonry and reinforced concrete (rc) buildings in Nepal. First, the buildings were classified according to different structural types like adobe, stone in mud, brick in mud, stone in cement, brick in cement, wood, bamboo, rc and others. Other important parameters like type of floors and roofs and occupancy of the buildings were noted before starting the detailed damage assessment of structural elements. Damage to overall building as well as to different structural/non-structural elements was categorized into four different categories mainly overall hazard, structural hazard, non-structural hazard and geotechnical hazard. The damage level to different structural/non-structural elements was assigned from insignificant damage to extreme damage in three categories considering the severity of damage like crack widths, delamination, tilting etc. In addition to the severity of damage, extent of damage to that particular element of different severity was also noted. Each type of damage with different severity was estimated in terms of extent like less than 1/3rd of the total area, 1/3rd–2/3rd and more than 2/3rd. Considering the damage severity and extent, overall damage grade to the building was assigned. Finally, based on the damage grade and extent of damage, recommendation for the building, either to demolish, repair and retrofit or just repair was recommended. This study further analyzes the main type of damage to different categories of the buildings and finds out critical factors to be considered for making them earthquake resistant. Existing traditional earthquake resistant elements like wooden bands and their effectiveness on earthquake safety of masonry buildings are further studied. It is found that, corner separation, diagonal cracking, out of plane failure, in-plane flexural failure and delamination are the main type of damage to masonry buildings while soft-story damage, joint failure, lap splice, columns shear failure, beam failure and infill walls failure are the main types of damages to non-engineered rc-buildings.

Ramesh Guragain, Surya Narayan Shrestha, Dev Kumar Maharjan, Suman Pradhan

Nepal Post Earthquake Cultural Heritage Rehabilitation

This article shows UNESCO’s experience in Nepal during and after the 2015 earthquakes in the protection and rehabilitation of the country’s rich cultural heritage. It explains the technical and administrative challenges, as well as the actions UNESCO undertook in 2015/16.

Christian Manhart

Heritage and Reconstruction: Different Perspectives

Heritage is the physical expression of the cultural identity of local communities and in most cases it is a key factor supporting the development of the local economy. Due to its own nature, heritage is a non-renewable patrimony to protect for the future generations. The purpose of this paper is to describe reconstruction issues for urban conservation in historic cities, which have been led to destruction by accident, because of flooding, earthquakes, storm, fires, and also war, pointing out the association between conservation and development. In so doing, the paper will focus on the case study of a city listed in the World Heritage List, Kathmandu. A further matter concerns the controversial approach of reconstruction: while restoration aims to bring a monument back to its original state or preserve from further damage, reconstruction instead is accomplished on buildings that are destroyed or constituted of just limited ruins, sometimes even requiring the construction of a new building. After the Second World War the patrimony of the European historic cities was severely damaged, making the population aware of their loss of cultural and national identity and opening the international debate on the proper techniques and theories that should be applied. When it comes to historical cities, rather than a single monument, it does not involve just the physical appearance and the historical value but might allow to reinstate the socio-economic condition and the cultural identity of a place after a period of decline.

Luigi Petti, Claudia Trillo, Martina Di Mauro

Can We Prevent Structural Failure Under Earthquakes?

Discussing the needs of the prevalent structural concept (the reinforced concrete frame with masonry infill: RCF) during the design and building process in order to provide adequate safety under earthquake loading, the robustness of this concept is called into question. It is concluded that, as long as we continue to build in this way, un-manageable earthquake disasters will strike our large urban centres. During the past two decades, new structural concepts have emerged that are not only more robust then RCF but also more economical to build. Among these are reinforced masonry, confined masonry and so-called seismic control concepts like Base Isolation, Hyde System and Tendon System. These concepts, their applications and advantages are briefly presented, also in the context of historical structures. For these, the Tendon System is particularly suitable, but basic understanding of the seismic performance of historic structures is missing. This is particularly true for Nepalese pagodas. It must be investigated using full-scale shaking table tests before any intervention or reconstruction should be allowed. Finally, strategies are suggested how to promote these concepts in order to substitute RCF eventually. If successful, widespread structural failures under earthquakes will become history.

Uwe E. Dorka

A Critical Appraisal on Turkey’s Neoliberal Quest of Urban Renewal in Historic Urban Landscapes

The paper aims at presenting a critical appraisal on Turkey’s quest for urban renewal under the threat of man-made disasters, through a special consideration on historic urban landscapes, and particularly its world heritage sites. It deals with how policies designed to mitigate earthquake risk and provide quality of life in the transformation of historic urban landscapes turn into tools of extensive clearance of spatial, social and cultural fabric with the experiences from Istanbul. The paper hopes that the lessons learned from Istanbul’s experience provide a medium to discuss the severe challenges and their resolving instruments associated with natural revanchist disasters as well as man-made disasters, especially in developing countries and in the sites with outstanding common heritage values such as Kathmandu.

Zeynep Gunay

Traditional Buildings and Preliminary Report in Construction Methods to Combat Earthquake

The earthquake of April 2015 has affected lives of Nepalese people in a very disturbing way. Although an earthquake cannot be stopped or correctly predicted, proper measures can be taken to prevent the hazards’ impact. Construction of earthquake resistant buildings is one of the major steps towards minimizing the risk. Numerous major earthquakes occurred throughout Nepal’s history. Consequently, earthquake-safe building is necessary and care needs to be placed in choosing the building material, type and construction methodology. Readily available materials like stones and mud can redeem as the most economic and reliable source of constructing the village houses throughout Nepal. Houses constructed in traditional Nepalese hill style with proper reinforcements have proven earthquake resistant, as seen from the houses built in Namuna Gaun, Sanga, and Bardali Ghar, Phulbari, Kabhre. Similarly, the earthquake-damaged houses need to be managed properly so as to reuse and reutilize most of the material from the old buildings. This will not only reduce the costs of construction material but also play the most significant role in heritage preservation and conservation. The houses in Gachhen area (Bhaktapur) are filled with artistic handicraft windows and doors from Malla era. Proper care has been taken to dismantle the shattered houses and recover materials intact as far as possible. There have also been cases of theft of ancient artefacts from houses. Hence, much care has been taken to store the materials reliably and safely. Addressing the needs of earthquake-affected people, care has to be taken in the economic front as well. The construction needs to be reliable as well as within budget. This fact can be met when the materials such as wood, bricks, stones, roof tiles etc. from the old buildings are reused. In context of reconstruction of earthquake resistant buildings, traditional Nepalese style building would be one of the best options.

Rabindra Puri, Sukriti Suvedi

Disaster Management and Economics


Medical Aspects of the Gorkha Earthquake 2015: Disaster Preparedness and Response

This chapter includes exemplary accounts from two medical doctors pertaining to the situation in the capital and in remote valleys. Within both accounts, the authors describe their personal experience, beginning with the first few hours post the initial quake. These experiences are firsthand accounts, ranging from uncoordinated medical aid in a governmental hospital in Kathmandu and a mountain hospital in Lukla to the ad hoc rescue chain in the Khumbu valley for those victims coming predominantly from Everest Base Camp. Unfortunately, the threat of future earthquakes and other natural hazard events in Nepal cannot be diminished. Therefore, in order to better manage any future mass casualty event, it is clear that there is a pressing need for further development of medical and rescue training services for both existing practitioners in the capital and those individuals based in rural Nepal. Moreover, the development of an international, coordinative body with rapid response time and specialist skill base must be discussed and deployed effectively in the case of any future national emergency.

Monika Brodmann Maeder, Matiram Pun

Meaningfulness of OR Models and Solution Strategies for Emergency Planning

In the context of growing number of natural or man-made disasters, operations research methodologies are imperative for optimal and equitable use of resources available for saving life and relief supports. On the PPRR risk management model, preparedness or planning is most important in unavoidable disasters, as most of the damages are due to lack of proper policy and effective planning strategies for optimal use of available resources. To cope with problem of saving affected and normalizing the situation after disaster is also challenging. On the basis of the recent researches, the importance of mathematical modeling in emergency planning is highlighted. In this work, basic models for facility locations, evacuation planning, and relief distribution (humanitarian logistics) are discussed with examples. Recent trends in extending models to make them closer and closer to real-life situations are recorded with their solution strategies, applications, and case studies in brief.

Tanka Nath Dhamala, Iswar Mani Adhikari, Hari Nandan Nath, Urmila Pyakurel

Economic Loss from Earthquake in Nepal and Strategies for Recovery and Resilience Building

The earthquakes on April 2015 took over 8790 casualties and 22,300 injuries with the destruction of physical infrastructures, heritages sites, community infrastructures and green infrastructures. This put a tremendous demand on different services and support from the affected people. The relief operations after the disaster were quite encouraging. However, the rehabilitation and reconstruction is delayed due to issues related with political, institutional, legal and governance. In this context, the strategy should aim for inclusive and resilient recovery. It should focus on reducing the disaster related risks and building better back. Moreover, it should consider the reconstruction of damaged assets, improvement in disaster preparedness response mechanism, and enhancement of measures for multi-hazard risk monitoring, vulnerability assessment, risk information dissemination and awareness. Similarly, there is a need to improve legal and institutional arrangements and mainstream disaster risk reduction into the developmental sector. There are several aspects of recovery which can be implemented only by developing a national consensus. Strong political will, sustained resource mobilization and continuous dialogue with the affected people, are among the most important prerequisites of a recovery program. The provision of income generating activities, skills development and community mobilization are catalytic for swift recovery and enhanced resilience. In addition, the existing institutions at all levels should be strengthened.

Ganesh R. Joshi, Narayan B. Joshi

Social Capital and Good Governance—A Nexus for Disaster Management: Lessons Learned from Bangladesh

This paper summarizes the good practice and lessons learned from the recent cyclone disasters and water surge events from the coastal areas of Bangladesh and reveals how people could facilitate the resilience based on governance and existing chain of social capital. The research identifies that social capital plays important role to boost up resilience based on volunteering and community sense of togetherness along with effective governance system from central to local government. The outcome of the research brings an example which can be adopted for increasing resilience of community while experiencing other natural disasters in particular to earth quake and mud slides. At the same time, the study also brings ideas how remotely sensed data can provide time to time information after disaster period to rebuild the community without investing much money and through the blessings of technology.

Khan Rubayet Rahaman

Directions and Avenues of Geotourism—With Particular View to Nepal

The paper briefly presents foundations and advantages of geotourism in theory and praxis. Research is mostly financed by public money and, therefore, the public should be informed about results of research. Such transfer needs to follow didactic rules. Beyond seminar rooms, geotourism is mainly based on geo-museums, geotopes and national and global geoparks. Geotourism as part of ecotourism and educational tourism is regarded as driving force behind the economic and cultural development of regions. Specifically a country like Nepal, with a limited industrial fundament, should make advantage of its rich geo-heritage. The paper reviews the geoscientific, economic and structural basis of geotourism in Nepal and its necessary design with respect to geo-hazards. Suggestions are made how geoscience transfer to the public can be performed, with special view on the Global Geopark Network, and which practical steps for successfully establishing geotourism in Nepal can be made. Finally, a key object is presented, which could serve as geotouristic focus of attraction: The Great Wall of Kathmandu.

Jörn H. Kruhl

Living with Earthquake Risk


Women and Children in the 2015 Earthquake in Nepal

Disasters do not affect individuals and communities indiscriminately; indeed, some groups of people are more vulnerable before, during, and after the disaster. Globally, research has found that children, youth, and women are often more vulnerable to disasters due to fewer economic resources, lack of political voice, risk of sexual assault and exploitation, household labor responsibilities, and gender and age discrimination. In this paper we examine the experiences of women and children in Nepal, which was struck by a devastating earthquake and aftershock in the spring of 2015. We discuss how the disaster impacted their lives, including their shelter and housing, education, labor, personal safety, and health. In Nepal, as is the case elsewhere, some groups of women and children are even more vulnerable than others. Women and children with disabilities, those belonging to an ethnic or racial minority group, female-headed households, elderly women, and children separated from families, or without families, face particular risks. We consider how children and women were faring in Nepal a year after the earthquake and propose some recommendations to reduce losses in the future.

Alice Fothergill, Emma Squier

Emotional Care in Social Work

We normally do not care about our emotional and mental health condition. There is less research on disaster impact on people’s life focusing on emotional health. Many people hide their emotional stress, which can lead to difficult situations later on. Nepal has gone through a period of violent conflict where many people were killed, abducted, displaced and jailed and loss their loved ones and belongings. In addition, people were affected mentally and physically by the devastating earthquakes in April and May 2015. Emotional health can be taken cared in two ways: one in personal level and next in group or team level. Psychological counseling, Peace Way workshops, Applied Improvisation are some of the ways to overcome the mental stress.

Ram Chandra Paudel

Earthquake and Earth Justice: Emergence of the Environmental Justice Movement and Its Relevance in Addressing Unanticipated Events

The earthquake that shook Nepal in 2015 was a colossal event that not only destroyed human life, settlement and civilization in the Himalayan landscape but also showed the limitation of human knowledge, experience and ingenuity. In October of the same year, Nepal adopted a new constitution that prioritized socio-economic rights. Can unanticipated events such as the earthquake be examined from justice perspective, is the principal concern of this note. It takes resonance from the environmental justice movement and,with the help of environmental justice discourse developed in South Asia, argues that the logic of environmental justice and earth justice can be strategically used to mitigate the impact of colossal events such as the earthquake, global warming, ozone depletion, climate change, or the collapse of the Himalayan system, etc., provided they are actuated by real implementation on the ground.

Ananda M. Bhattarai

Assessing Policies of Responding to the Risk and Impacts of Earthquakes from a Justice Perspective

The paper addresses two important issues in assessing policies of responding to the risk of and the damages caused by earthquakes. First, the complex uncertainties concerning the occurrence and impacts of earthquakes raise difficult issues from the perspective of a philosophical theory of justice when assessing policies to reduce the impact of possible earthquakes. We propose a particular understanding of what justice requires, namely risk-averse weak sufficientarianism, and show how this understanding can justify the reduction of the imposition of risks of harms. Second, we address how one should respond to unavoided and unavoidable damages caused by earthquakes. Here we suggest that we should view such damages primarily as a reason for redistribution, and therefore as a matter of distributive justice.

Lukas H. Meyer, Harald Stelzer

Earthquake Preparedness Policy in Nepal

Earthquake preparedness policy is described as a faltering policy process in Nepal. By reconstructing a chain of policy events at the national and international level, it is shown that relevant policy knowledge was already available by international networks in the early 1990s and was also used for national policy initiatives at that time. Effective building regulation, however, was introduced only late and inconsistently. The sluggish and faltering policy process is essentially explained by (1) a cultural and developmental context in which governments are overloaded with clashing problems, displacing creeping policy issues; (2) endemic policy discontinuity and inconsistency generated by political instability; (3) weak infrastructural power in which public administration is unable to implement policy choices on the ground; (4) rampant corruption, slowing down consistent policy enforcement and compliance with building regulation.

Volker Schneider, Antje Witting
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