ICIMOD Earthquake Brief

8 May 2015

An ICIMOD Task Force on Geo-hazards was engaged in mapping and assessing hazards for mountain communities created by landslides, rock falls, and avalanches. The Task Force coordinated to form a broad international team with the Governments of India (Indian Space Research Organization – ISRO), Pakistan (Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission – SUPARCO), China (Chinese Academy of Sciences), and Nepal, as well as other bodies like the National Aerospace and Space Administration (NASA), the University of Arizona, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Esri, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Digital Globe, Disaster Charter, and the US Geological Survey (USGS)

  • High-resolution satellite imagery was used to identify landslides and landslide-dammed rivers that could lead to severe downstream flooding if the dam is suddenly breached. Given the large loss of life and property during and after the earthquake, ICIMOD and its collaborators aim to provide knowledge that can help prevent future disasters in the affected areas.  

  • To date, the Task Force has identified over 3000 landslides, and assembled a database of over 250 landslides and other large mass movements, focusing specifically on those that were generated by the earthquake and its aftershocks or other secondary effects. The NASA-USGS-Interagency team  examined five events in particular that have either devastated villages or  present a significant risk to downstream communities: the Gyriong Zangbo/Trishuli River near Chongsecun, China; the Marshygandhi River near Pisang, Nepal (link here); the Tom Khola near Prok, Nepal (http://www.nasa.gov/jpl/landsat-shows-new-hazards-arising-in-manaslulangtang-region-of-nepal); the Budi Gandaki River near Lho Bazaar, Nepal; and Langtang Village, Nepal (http://mountainhydrology.org/nepal-quake/landsat-8-reveals-extent-of-earthquake-disaster-in-langtang-valley/). The BGS-Durham-EWF team has also identified a zone of widespread, intense landsliding that runs east-west, approximately parallel to the transition between the Lesser and High Himalaya. This zone contains numerous rock falls and debris avalanches, which are individually localised but together have had catastrophic impacts on roads and villages. 
  • More information will be gathered about the conditions of Langtang Valley which experienced landslides and suffered a massive loss of property and life as a result of the earthquake. Using satellite imagery as well as first-hand accounts, the Task Force has recorded details on the post-disaster environment of each village in the Langtang Valley. 
  • A geophysical hazards report for earthquake affected areas was prepared and shared with the Office of Prime Minister and the Ministry of Home Affairs. The report identifies landslides and formation of artificial lakes that may have occurred due the earthquake. 
  • The database will be continually updated with new information and shared with local governments and agencies coordinating the delivery of aid and assistance. To assist with post-earthquake recovery, ICIMOD and the international scientific community will continue to monitor landslide-dammed rivers, secondary landslides, and the development of future landslide hazards as the monsoon draws near.
  • On the request from the Ministry of Home Affairs, ICIMOD deployed a task force of volunteers and in-house GIS/remote sensing experts to map settlement clusters and damage assessment in the earthquake affected areas. These maps aid in the deployment of relief interventions in the affected areas. The map identifies settlement clusters in districts and facilities in VDC such as schools, roads, hospitals and potential helipad landing through remotely sensed imagery using Google Earth and auxiliary data.  

The products are made available as settlement clusters, VDC maps, and map files to the National Emergency Operation Center (NEOC) in the Ministry of Home Affairs and others. The information enables users to view the maps in Google Earth. 

  • As of today, 8 settlement clusters map for eight districts identified by the government have been prepared - Dhading, Dolakha, Kavrepalanchowk, Gorkha, Nuwakot, Rasuwa, Sindulpalchowk and Lamjung.
  • 30 maps identifying various facilities in VDCs that can help relief efforts were prepared. 
  • Maps were shared with anyone who wished to acquire the service.  About 8 agencies including office of Prime Minster has availed the service both in hard and soft copies. 


  • On 3 May, Nepal’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Home Affairs Bam Dev Gautam and other senior government officials visit ICIMOD to learn about the products and platforms ICIMOD and its partners are developing to support earthquake relief and recovery operations in Nepal.

Relief Provision

In consultation with the Government of Nepal, ICIMOD provided immediate relief support to partners, communities, and families reaching out to areas where it has worked with communities through its projects and pilots. 

  • On 5 May, ICIMOD staff handed over 6,000 kg of rice to the Godavari Municipality Office in Kitini, Lalitpur, for distribution to the neediest households affected by the earthquake. The municipality officials thanked ICIMOD for timely support. They assured that a distribution mechanism has been put in place to ensure that the relief gets to those who need it the most. 
  • A team from ICIMOD visited Sipapokhare VDC, one of the severely affected VDCs of Sindhupalchowk district, to provide relief materials. Sindhupalchok is one of the Water Use Master Plans (WUMPs) pilot district of the Koshi Basin Programme. Food items - 1,500 kilograms of rice, 100 kg lentil and 100 liters of cooking oil - were distributed to 100 households. This short-term relief of food items is expected to be sufficient for about seven days. Medicines and garments were also delivered. 
  • A team from ICIMOD visited Gorkha district to provide relief materials to the REDD project partners and local communities. One hundred tarpaulins provided by Marwari Sewa Samiti was jointly distributed by ICIMOD and the Samiti. Additional material support and transport were provided by ICIMOD. The Federation of Community Forest User Group Nepal (FECOFUN) Gorkha District has informed the District Administration Office of this assistance. 
  • ICIMOD will continue to support needy communities and families.