It is time for bold thinking in Nepal and a greater understanding of the importance of resilience is making its way. In a country where the recent Gorkha earthquake had a significant impact on GDP leaving 2.8 million people displaced and more than 8,000 dead, and where the possibility of a fast economic recovery is not high, the only way out is to build a long-lasting resilience.
"Nepal developed the Building Code in 1994 with assistance from the international community” – remembers Surya Shrestha from the National Society of Earthquake Technology, NSET-Nepal, one of GEM’s public sponsors – “and even after more than 15 years, in 2009, the Code had found organized enforcement only in 3 out of 58 municipalities. Local governments at the time were unable to generate consensus on the use of the Code, nor the implementation of compliance mechanisms. Also, the population didn’t have a clear understanding of the benefits of prevention.
Today, I believe the conditions are ripe for a wider collaboration among all stakeholders of disaster risk reduction actions, and I am convinced that the idea of building resilience has started to include concepts like local desire and indigenous knowledge, institutional commitment and international scientific expertise."After the April 2015 Gorkha earthquake, GEM’s Governing Board allocated priority to activities in Nepal, with early discussions on collaboration resulting in a one-month visit to GEM headquarters by a four-member Nepali delegation: two Nepali governmental officers from the Department of Mines and Geology and the Department of Urban Development and Building Construction (DUDBC) and two senior professionals of NSET.
An outcome of the visit was the drafting of a long-term plan for GEM-Nepal collaboration that was presented to – and endorsed by – the GEM Governing Board, and officially presented to the Nepali government agencies on December 6-12, 2015 in Kathmandu. The plan envisages updating and consolidating the current knowledge on seismic hazard, risk and social vulnerabilities utilizing frontier scientific knowledge and implementing scientific analyses, with NSET providing coordination, in close collaboration with the Nepali Government agencies.
Training and capacity development remain fundamental factors in GEM’s collaboration and the agreed plan includes bringing three Nepali PhD students to work in Pavia on the development of the national hazard model and other components. "We would like to see Nepali tertiary institutions involved as much as possible on the use of OpenQuake, with the aim of adapting GEM tools to local needs, testing their applicability and replicability, and incorporating them in the education of new local professionals.
Having some students collaborating with us would not only allow them to learn the methodology and application of GEM tools, but it would also teach GEM scientists about the local needs and priorities in Nepal”, says Carlos Villacis, GEM Regional Programme Manager and Strategy Coordinator. "Before coming to visit GEM I didn’t know much about OpenQuake.” – says Monika Jha, Senior Geologist from Nepal’s Department of Mines and Geology – "We used to rely on external consultancies for data collection and we didn’t know much about open data and open source technologies, but now I see the potential of GEM for building up our own scientific and technical autonomy, and I hope we can soon initiate our collaboration."