It is a year since major earthquakes devastated large areas of Nepal, killing more than 8,700 people and destroying or damaging some 250,000 houses. With reconstruction efforts ongoing, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is continuing to support sustainable post-disaster recovery in the country.
UNEP aims to promote a green, resource-efficient and sustainable reconstruction process in the country, focused on environmental recovery, restoration of ecosystems and resource efficiency.
The earthquake on 25th April 2015 and its aftershocks killed more than 8,700 people, injured more than 22,000, and destroyed and damaged more than 250,000 houses. While 8.1 million people were directly affected, millions across the rural nation were exposed to increased landslides. Major life-supporting ecosystems were also severely damaged.
“The aim is to ensure that the rebuilding results in enhanced environmental resilience of the people of Nepal and its ecosystems,” explained Isabelle Louis of the UNEP Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.
An environmental assessment undertaken by the Government of Nepal following the earthquake revealed significant destruction of forests and protected areas, as well as damage to ecotourism infrastructure such as nature trails, trekking routes and camping sites, according to UNEP.
The earthquake also destroyed renewable rural energy technology solutions, including improved cooking and biogas stoves, and shifted water sources in some areas, with reduced or no flows in places.
Furthermore, freshwater ecosystems were affected by increased sedimentation and some rivers were temporarily blocked by landslides. The economic cost of the loss of ecosystems services from landslides has been estimated at nearly USD 328 million.
Since the disaster a year ago, UNEP has been working with the Nepal government to mitigate the environmental impact of the disaster. Developments include a comprehensive waste management strategy to deal with the estimated 3.9 million tonnes of earthquake debris.
To mark the anniversary of the earthquake, the head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, Robert Glasser, called for greater investment in resilient infrastructure “if the death toll from future earthquakes is to be reduced”.
“The Nepal Earthquake was long forecast and worse could happen in the future,” he said. “As the rebuilding effort is now set to get under way in earnest, every support must be extended to the 3 million or more people who lost their homes a year ago so they build back better to earthquake-resistant standards.”
Photo credit: United Nations Development Programme/ CC BY-NC-ND 2.0