Wednesday, December 1, 2021

How much are we prepared for next earthquake?

Image Credit: Sanu Kaji Shakya


The recent 5.8 magnitude earthquake with epicentre in Lamjung district, which was actually an aftershock of the 2015 Gorkha earthquake did not get much attention in comparison to the reconstruction of Dharahara tower. The reconstruction gave much joy to many Nepalis. On the day of its inauguration social media users in Facebook and Tiktok celebrated the joy together by posting pictures and videos of the newly constructed Dharahara. Users also claimed Dharahara to be the pride of Kathmandu.

But Lamjung earthquake is something that should not be ignored. The scribe believes that more than celebrating Dharahara, this aftershock had to be taken seriously.

No doubt, the reconstruction of Dharahara is a matter of celebration but the reconstruction is also a painful reminder of the massive destruction that natural disasters like earthquakes can wreak.  The Gorkha earthquake of April 25, 2015 and its aftershock killed nearly 9,000 people, injured 22,000 people, and more than half a million houses collapsed or were destroyed.

The Gorkha earthquake had proved that Nepal is one of the most vulnerable countries in terms of earthquake because of the tectonic movement of the Indian plate and the Eurasian plate.  Many experts say the earthquake was not able to release the energy completely which means a similar magnitude of earthquake is anytime possible in Nepal.

Are we ready for the next earthquake? Without preparation and correct planning, the next earthquake is sure to cause massive disaster. To limit the hazard of the earthquake, there is a need of aware citizens, strong construction, and powerful government to invest in disaster management.

Disaster management is the popular term in the discourse of disaster which includes not only the disaster to be responded through reconstruction after the real disaster occurs but also includes mitigation and preparation. In simple terms, after a disaster occurs, emergency response, the reconstruction of buildings and infrastructure is one part of disaster management. They are crucial but at the same time lesson learning from the disaster is equally important.

Many people lost their lives because of the collapse of buildings but this is a half-truth. People lost their lives because of a lack of emergency evacuation techniques and planning. New building construction guidelines were published soon after the Gorkha earthquake which is to be appreciated but what were the actions done for the old houses which did not luckily collapse or crack? There are many questions like this.  

How many of us have secured house furniture? How many of us have enough stocks of food and water?  Do any of us know if there is a designated evacuation centre or where we are going when an earthquake hits? How many of us have prepared emergency kits in the event of an earthquake? Do any of us have talked about earthquake response with our family members?  Many of us do not have the answer to these questions. Having concrete answer for these questions can save the life of many innocent people and also saves country the economic burden. The effect of six-year old earthquake is still among us.

The newly created local government system has given the opportunity to work more comfortably as per the need of locals which is essential when it comes to disaster management as only locals know the exact problem and need of their location. Through the local government, awareness campaign, the mock practice of emergency evacuation, separation of shelter for earthquake, back up emergency service in the hospital, and other training should be conducted.

Disasters like earthquake are natural phenomena and are inevitable but early preparation of disaster can definitely soften its impact and we can continue with normal life even after the disaster. Therefore, let us all take the reconstruction of Dharahara as a reminder for the preparation of the next earthquake before it becomes too late.

Published on 4 June 2021