Metro column: Kathmanduites living with plethora of problems, risks
SEP 23 -
Rapid urban growth has increased strain on the urban environment, increasing disaster risks. Kathmandu is considered one of the most disaster prone cities in the world. It is a city where about 90 percent buildings are constructed considering proper engineering works. Maintenance and upkeep of the city is a tough nut to crack.
Statistics suggest that the 1934 earthquake killed 4,296 people in the Kathmandu Valley only. About 60 percent of Valley houses were razed to the ground by the quake. If a similar kind of earthquake strikes Kathmandu or neighbouring area, the possible damage and destruction will likely to be higher than the one that the Caribbean nation Haiti saw in 2010.
The Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) is a key guideline for disaster risk reduction, on the basis of which Nepal developed the National Strategy for Disaster Risk Management and the Nepal Disaster Risk Reduction Consortium (NRRC) to address the issues of disaster. The UNDP has been coordinating with different stakeholders in partnership with the government.
In Nepal’s context, the combination of economic and environmental pressures increasingly keep forcing the rural people to search an alternative living in nearby towns or cities. Most of the hill people have migrated to the southern plains.
In the Capital city, people from all across the country have migrated in their quest for better opportunities. Availability of developed and safe land in urban areas always falls short of demand. The urban poor have no choice but to contend with living in the places prone to natural or man-made hazards such as commercial and industrial locations.
Urban areas boast high density population and are vulnerable disasters. Combination of high vulnerability and exposure causes higher degree of urban risk.
Kathmandu has poor infrastructure. The perennial problem of water, electricity supply sanitation and drainage make the matter go from bad to worse. Experts say urbanisation, in most cases, has a detrimental impact on local and regional environment. Ecologically fragile areas now have been swallowed by expanding cities, resulting in loss of biodiversity and disrupted balance of ecosystem.
In addition to this, ground subsidence, underground excavations, surface and ground water contamination, water table reduction are some of the resultants of urbanisation. In Kathmandu , over exploitation of underground water is rampant. This will certainly create problems in the future.
Authorities have considered the issue of disaster risk reduction a priority in Kathmandu .
Some measures to that effect have been initiated.
However, no serious steps have been taken to reduce disaster risks. Many buildings in the Capital are old and weak and there are hardly any spaces left in cities. Most of the houses require retrofitting or reconstruction.
On the other hand, roads too are narrow. In case of a great disaster, destruction is likely to be in incalculable level and it will very difficult to mobilise rescue workers. Cities are also vulnerable to fire. The available resources are limited. Therefore, immediate steps are necessary to protect people and infrastructure in the metropolitan area.
(Khatri, a retired Nepal Army Colonel, is working with the Strategic Centre for Disaster Risk Reduction Nepal)
Posted on: 2012-09-23 08:06