Disaster Situation Report

Disaster Profile - Nepal

Nepal boasts seven of the world's eight highest peaks, including Mount Everest. 80% of the land area of 147,181 sq. km is made up of mountains and hills. It is also a landlocked country with its nearest point to the sea being 960 km array. It has a unique altitudinal variation from 60m at Jhapa in the south to 7,848 m at Mt. Everest, quite a big variation in such a small country. The Terai plain, a low and flat land (100-300m), stretches along the southern part of the country next to the Indian Border.

Nepal boasts seven of the world's eight highest peaks, including Mount Everest. 80% of the land area of 147,181 sq. km is made up of mountains and hills. It is also a landlocked country with its nearest point to the sea being 960 km array. It has a unique altitudinal variation from 60m at Jhapa in the south to 7,848 m at Mt. Everest, quite a big variation in such a small country. The Terai plain, a low and flat land (100-300m), stretches along the southern part of the country next to the Indian Border.

Nepal is exposed to most disaster types including earthquakes, floods, landslides, droughts, storms, avalanches, hailstorms, fires, epidemics and ecological hazards. A wide range of physiological, geological, ecological, meteorological and demographic factors contribute to the vulnerability of the country to disasters. Major factors contributing to disasters are rapid population growth, slow economic development, a high degree of environmental degradation, fragility of the land mass and high elevation of the mounting slopes.

Earthquakes Nepal lies in a region of high seismic activity. Earthquakes with magnitudes of 5 to 8 on the Richter scale have been experienced throughout the country and 279 earthquakes with epicenters in Nepal and magnitudes above 3.9 have been recorded. The country's high seismic city is related to the presence of active faults between tectonic plates along the Himalayas. Chains of active faults run for around 100km, interrupted by inactive sections. There are also active faults in the lower Himalayas and along the southern slopes of the Siwalik range. One main reason for Nepal's vulnerability to earthquakes is the poor construction of public buildings and houses especially in densely populated areas like Katmandu. The earthquake of 15th January 1934 was the most lethal natural disaster in Nepal's history: it killed 9,040 people.

Floods and landslides Floods and landslides are often interrelated in Nepal. Some landslides are triggered by riverbank erosion, and some flash floods are aggravated by landslides in the areas adjoining riverbanks. Both these phenomena occur during the monsoon season. Glacial lake outburst floods are common in the Himalayan region, and are triggered by a wide rage of hydrological, and seismic factors. Disastrous flash floods usually occur in Nepal when landslides or debris block a river for several hours and the water is then released suddenly, inundating areas downstream. Continuous heavy rainfall may also cause flash floods in many rivers originating in hilly regions. Flash floods may also be cussed by an avalanche, snowstorm or cloudburst.

A significant number of landslides estimated at over 12,000 occur each year. Various natural and man-made factors contribute to the high incidence of landslides. Natural factors include steep slopes, undercutting of riverbanks by rivers, weathered, fractured and weak rocks in the mountains, high rainfall and seismic activities. Man mad factors responsible for landsides are intensive deforestation, improper agriculture and irrigation practices, overgrazing on the slopes, quarrying for construction materials, and construction of infrastructure beyond the bearing capacities of the hill slopes. Landslides frequently occur in the monsoon season following and earthquake.

Fire: Most fires occur during summer, particularly in the Terai region when the temperatures are high and strong winds occur. Some of the reasons for the fire outbreaks are poor use of fire are also common in some hilly areas.

Institutional Structures

The national policy on disasters has two main components: precautionary measures, and emergency response and relief. The policy on disaster management covers the following aspects:

There are provisions made to ensure implementation of these policies, which include:

The Ministry of Home (MOH) is the key agency in the institutional structure for disaster management. MOH is the only agency that has the mandate for carrying out rescue and relief operations. The Central Disaster Management Committee and district and local committees are under the Ministry. Other agencies involved include the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation, which is engaged in stabilizing natural and man-made landslides by afforestation and construction of check dams and other low-cost structures. The Ministry of Water Resources, through the Water Induced Disaster Prevention Training Center, aims to strengthen the government's capacity to cope with water induced disaster through training and technological development.

Agencies such as the Department of Irrigation, Mines and Geology, and Department of Roads have linkages with disaster management. The Nepal Red Cross Society (NRCS) in co-operation with the government handles relief distribution for the government. It maintains warehouses of disaster relief materials in all districts. This is the primary agency for responding to any kind of disaster. Only in areas where NRCS is unable to operate does the government takes over responsibility for relief distribution. The main gaps in the existing structure and policy are:

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