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Infra loopholes compound Nepal’s quake tragedy

Apr 30, 2015

Despite experts pointing out Kathmandu’s vulnerability to earthquakes, little was done to deal with an impending disaster like the one that struck Nepal last week.

Kathmandu/New Delhi: In what appears to be the one of the deadliest earthquakes in Nepal, in the last eighty years, the landlocked country was rattled by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake on 25th April, 2015, with its epicenter in the Lamjung district. The government is now apprehensive that the death toll figures could hit the 10, 000 mark.

The country continued to face aftershocks days after the disaster hit the geographically vulnerable land. Brian Tucker, president and founder of GeoHazards, a nonprofit, explaining the geological vulnerability, said that the location of Kathmandu and the surrounding valley is based on an ancient dried up lake bed wherein the soft nature of the soil multiplies seismic motion.

According to the UNDP, a global development body, Nepal is ranked at number eleven with regards to its vulnerability to the tremors.

Unfortunately, for Nepal, the fury of the deadly earthquake got compounded because of the underlying fact that the country was severely challenged on the infrastructure front. Ironically, even the Nepal Red Cross Society had pointed out that earthquakes may turn dangerous for Kathmandu Valley, as the latter is prone to a host of factors associated with unplanned growth like rapid urbanisation, fast growing population, haphazard housing, and a gross negligence towards enforcement of building codes in the national capital.

The global humanitarian organization also forewarned that a humanitarian response will be affected due to factors like weak and poor infrastructure, lack of communication facilities, poor WATSAN and transportation facilities.

The latest situation report released by the UN reveals that there is serious shortage of hospitals. The study also highlights that the quake had razed thousands of buildings displacing a sizeable population in and around Kathmandu.

The appalling status of infrastructure could be seen through the fact that the Asian Development Bank had estimated that the Himalayan country would need to spend at least four times of its existing expenditure on infrastructure alone, annually.

The lack of disaster preparedness in Nepal becomes acutely visible in the rampant mismanagement of the humanitarian aid pouring in not just from neighbouring countries like India and Sri Lanka, but also from global giants like the United Kingdom and the United States. Therefore, despite a deluge of support from institutions and nations all over the world, very less is trickling down to the needy and quake affected population.

The promptness of relief support from the neighbouring countries could be noticed from the fact that within hours of the tragedy striking Nepal, India dispatched 260 relief personnel, medical teams and 20 tones of relief material to Kathmandu.

The quake becomes unbearably burdensome for Nepal as it is one of the poorest countries in the world and currently ranks 157th out of 187 countries on the Human Development Index. This along with poor infrastructure is adding more fuel to the fire of destruction.

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