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Lessons from Kathmandu on earthquake preparedness

The recent tragedy in Kathmandu offers lessons for other cities on the importance of earthquake-proof construction and retrofits. (Guido Dingemans for ReSurge International)

The tragedy unfolding in Kathmandu and the rest of Nepal offers some stark lessons about the gravity of earthquake preparedness. Jo Scheuer writes in the Nikkei Asian Review that for disaster-risk experts, “the earthquake is no surprise.” He is director of climate change and disaster risk reduction at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

“Nepal’s Kathmandu Valley is densely populated, seismically active and struggling to cope with weak infrastructure,” Scheuer writes. Lack of compliance with building codes and endemic poverty heightened the vulnerabilities. The influx of rural citizens to urban areas intensified pressure on building owners to cut corners.

The devastation underscores the urgency of quake-prone construction for cities and towns along fault lines, Scheuer advises. But it also highlights the enormous financial challenges that poor nations face with disaster mitigation.

Despite the sobering conclusions, Scheuer notes that Nepal has taken positive steps. Retrofits were made to schools and hospitals and masons received training on earthquake-proof design. New housing must comply with stringent building requirements.

Nikkei Asian Review

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