‘Geological study before rebuilding’

  • A preliminary study identifies 143 settlements in need of immediate attention in 14 most affected districts
- PRAGATI SHAHI, Kathmandu

Feb 24, 2016-

Planners and local communities have to understand the geological and seismic state of the areas hit by devastating earthquakes in April and May last year is a must before the government pours millions for rebuilding works, geologists suggest. 

While the government has announced to start the reconstruction works in earthquake-affected districts by April this year, very little or no effort has been made to develop a blueprint that includes geological and seismic study of the affected areas targeted for rebuilding and resettlement. 

The National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) is tasked to manage the post-quake reconstruction works. 

The Reconstruction Authority Act endorsed by the government clearly states the need of conducting a geological study of the districts affected by the April earthquake before carrying out any reconstruction works, including rebuilding and relocation of the affected settlements. 

“However, except for a preliminary report prepared based on a brief field study after the earthquake, no specific study has been carried out to find the geological state of the areas that are to be rebuild,” said Tara Nidhi Bhattarai, professor at the Department of Geology, Tri-Chandra Campus.  

It is a matter of urgency and needs immediate attention as the government is moving towards the reconstruction phase, he said. “Onus lies on the government to provide adequate information to the local people about the geological state of the areas they are currently living or waiting to rebuild their homes to ensure their safety should a disaster hit in future,” Bhattarai. 

A preliminary study conducted by the Department of Mines along with some experts and planners on some of the randomly selected areas in 14 most affected districts had identified 143 settlements as vulnerable and needed immediate attention. 

But the local communities in the affected areas, who have already started rebuilding or waiting for government support, are unaware of the geological state of the place including the soil characteristics, seismic and hazard risk, among others, said Basanta Raj Adhikari, deputy director at the Centre for Disaster Studies, Institute of Engineering.“We’ve still got to work to ensure that those places are safe and resilient to future disaster risks while talking about reconstruction,” he said. 

“Until now, we are only focused on hazard mapping that is done only when disaster occurs. But what we need is risk mapping, to ensure safety before any disaster occurs.” 

After seeing fissures and cracks on the land surface near their houses and farms after the earthquake, many people stayed out of their homes for safety reasons during monsoon. “When no landslides or related disaster happened, people have returned to the place of their origin. But it is unsafe to rebuild in such areas without a proper geological study,” Bhattarai warned. 

The government has formulated a land use policy but the haphazard construction and development works has put a big question over its effective implementation.

“The April earthquake was a new context in the field of disaster management. We need expertise, capacity building and allow our young geologists and scientists to conduct studies to facilitate rebuilding in a better and safer way,” Bhattarai added. 

The NRA has mapped out short- and long-term approaches to reconstruction, incorporating the geological risk information. Under the short-term approach, a team comprising geotechnical engineers, geologists, planners and disaster experts will review the vulnerability status in terms of geological state of the existing 143 settlements in 14 most affected districts, according to Chandra Bahadur Shrestha, an NRA member. “Based on the results, we will move ahead with reconstruction works,” he said. 

Under the long-term approach, the authority plans to include a land use planning and detailed geological study of the 14 most affected districts. “We have been discussing on cluster settlement approach in some areas to ensure their safety. So a comprehensive geological study is must,” Shrestha said.

Published: 24-02-2016 08:22

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