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Director General’s message on the launch of The Impact of Nepal’s 2015 Gorkha Earthquake-Induced Geohazards

We are pleased to share this important publication The Impact of Nepal’s 2015 Gorkha Earthquake-Induced Geohazards with a wider audience around the world. In the aftermath of the Gorkha Earthquake that hit Nepal on 25 April, ICIMOD joined hands with regional and international experts and institutions to map the positions of landslides and debris flows and where they had blocked river valleys. The information collected by the team was provided directly to the Government of Nepal to assist in relief efforts and was instrumental in the formation of a Geohazards Task Force by the government.

David James Molden

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Later, ICIMOD in collaboration with other experts undertook several studies including field surveys, airborne observations, and remote sensing mapping to assess the occurrence and impact of the geohazards induced by the earthquake and its aftershocks. This publication presents the results of this work together with findings from several other related studies.

Panorama images of Langtang Village taken before (October 2012) and after (May 2015) the Nepal earthquake.
Photo credit: D. Breashears/GlacierWorks

The Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region is geologically fragile with unstable slope-land systems, and geohazards such as landslides and debris flows are common. The people of the region are very vulnerable to such natural hazards, a vulnerability compounded by the social conditions. The region also falls in a high seismic zone; earthquakes are a frequent phenomenon and cause significant loss of lives and property.
The Gorkha Earthquake devastated large parts of the country. The main shock of 25 April and several other aftershocks including that of 12 May caused the death of about 9,000 people, injured 22,000, and was responsible for loss and damage equivalent to USD 7 billion. This study indicates that the main geohazards induced by the Gorkha Earthquake were landslides, river channel constriction and damming, and avalanches with debris flow and airburst. The number of landslides was large (more than 4,000), but much less than that induced elsewhere by other earthquakes of similar magnitude.

Results from the study have shown that damage from earthquake-induced geohazards can be considerable, and there is the need to treat geohazards separately since their nature and effects and mitigation and adaptation options are different. Similarly, the secondary effect of the damage from geohazards is likely to be comparatively much higher than that of the direct earthquake impact in terms of loss of livelihoods, blocking of movement of people, goods, and services, and loss of revenue from trade and energy supply.

New data has revealed that the Gorkha Earthquake did not release all of the stress that had built up underground along the Himalayan arc. Due to the residual stress, likelihood of another large earthquake occurring in the future remains. Seismologists say the damage from a possible large earthquake could be much worse.

We hope that the findings and the recommendations provided by the authors in this publication will help policy and decision makers in Nepal and other regional member countries in their efforts to prepare for geohazards and improve geohazard management.

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