Some news from Nepal after earthquake

Kathmandu and around
– Airport: Nepal can be reached by the airs: Tribhuvan Airport, international and national, has not been damaged. Army and private helicopters are still daily very busy by providing supplies and help in the different remote affected areas too.
Hotels and restaurants: the majority of the touristic hotels are open and have announced that they are operational and ready for the next season, which starts at the beginning of the coming Autumn 2015. The situation is similar for the restaurants.
Transportation means: as well the taxis as the various other transportation means are operational;
Roads: a very few roads have been damaged by the recent earthquakes, but the workers are already rebuilding them as where it is necessary.
UNESCO Heritage sites: 3 of 10 are damaged, but it is now one of the Government’s priority to approve the budget for their re-affectation. It has also foreseen to present to the public large pictures of the monuments that need to be rebuilt on the different sites.
Thamel: the most touristic part of Kathmandu, seems to be lost without its usual tourists at that time of the year…Most of the small and overloaded colourful shops are open but the clients are only few;
Shops: the majority of them have reopened a few days after each earthquakes.
Private buildings: as shown by the media too, some private buildings have either collapsed or are threatening to collapse, or are more or less damaged.
Local population: there are still some people sleeping outside in their tents, whereas daily life comes slowly back to normality.
Wild animals: people in the village of Bhaktapur district, situated in the lower land at one-hour drive more Kathmandu have to spend nights amid fears of wild beast (leopards) and snakes while they sleep in tents after their houses collapsed or were damaged in the devastating recent earthquakes of 25 April and 12 May 2015.

Affected regions
Districts: More than 29 districts of 75 districts have been affected by the 25 April earthquake, mainly situated in the hills regions of Nepal. The district of Sindulpalchhowk where we have been at the time of this earthquake being one of the most affected. More than 3400 deaths are registered, all 557 schools and 52 health post buildings of this district have been razed to the ground in the quake, suspended bridges have collapsed among other (and this is just the example of one of the affected regions…). In some parts drinking water is getting a problem too and some villages till today were almost not, if not supplied.
Migrants: Nepali migrants return to quake epicentre to rebuilt their villages stone by stone as this 30 year old Nepali who put off the promise of a job in Japan to return to the rubble of his childhood home: “I came back to rebuilt and to help my mother”.
Dangers: access roads are threatened by landslides and rock falls due to the massive earthquakes and recurring aftershocks. Rocks and soil in the hills have lost rigidity making landslides a common occurence, that are for this period of the year uncommon and, which will increase during the coming monsoon.
Relocation: some of the villages that are considered as being under high risk and vulnerable to earthquakes are relocated/resettled. For example, Tatopani the village in which Norbu and me were blocked on our way to Mount Everest on 25 April 2015, is resettled in the middle of Kathmandu in a field nearby we live. Under the heat of Kathmandu, they try to arrange at their best their tented provisory “new village”. Some of them have never been before in the capital but they have no other choice, but all worry about their future.
Women: women are particularly facing difficult situations after these recent earthquakes; numerous of them have given birth, as the woman we saw in Tatopani, in the middle of the nature, under a tent or a shelter, but in the majority of the cases in precarious conditions and with no means or no where to go in case of complication due the stressful situation of the earthquake experience and others];
Loss: besides the tragic human loss reaching more that 8600 casualties till today, the villagers of the affected regions that are mostly farmers in remote parts of Nepal, living with less means, have to take on them the loss of most of their cattle and tonnes of food stocked in their houses that have collapsed. Almost every family of such regions owns a few animals (goats, buffalo, cows, yak, chicken) that represents an important fortune, or the only real fortune, for most of them. The animals are often tightened under a cover besides the houses. The food consist mainly, but depending the regions and the altitude, of paddy, maize, wheat, buckwheat, pulses, spices, potatoes along with the seeds. And at this date, still some people are missing.

Tourismus
Income: an important part of the national revenue for Nepal comes from the tourism sector, among others through the entry fees to the monuments, the trekking and climbing permits of the different national conservation areas. Considering the usual two “high seasons” for Nepal, namely Spring (March to May) and Autumn (September to mid-December), and the fact that the Spring 2015 season was prematurely over after 25 April, Nepal works now hard to make its possible that the next season is not in a total deficit again. Income generated by the tourists visiting Nepal would also at the same time help for the reconstruction of the damaged parts of some of the Heritage sites. According to what one can see now, most of the capital, Kathmandu, will be worth and safe enough for visiting in the coming Autumn.
Affected population: from the personal welcoming the guests at Kathmandu Tribhuvan international airport, the luggage porters, the taxi drivers, hotels, restaurants, lodges, the touristic and mountain guides, the climbing sherpas, the food suppliers, trekking porters to the shops owners in the touristic areas all are seriously affected by this disaster. This means in other words that no income at all is flossing in that would permit them to rebuilt their houses, shops or else. Furthermore, there is no contribution for un-employment in Nepal and the insurance money, if any, does not help a lot for does who have to rebuilt their houses.
Change of Nepal Tourism ministry: the recent nomination of a Sherpa (Kripasur Sherpa) as new Tourism ministry for Nepal is seen to be construed as a meaningful move as he is close to some key institutions in the tourism sector.
Current situation: Kathmandu, as said above, the city is safe enough and the majority of the hotels, restaurants and sightseeing places are accessible. The trekking/expedition regions, some of the regions have been affected a lot, while others have not been affected at all; it therefore possible to plan a trip to Nepal already for the coming Autumn but with clear information from your agency about where to go.

Government
Casualties: according to the data on human casualties of the 25 earthquakes and the numerous subsequent aftershocks made public by the Nepali Police, women deaths have outnumbered the men deaths. According to some gender experts, traditional role of women could be one of the reasons behind more women losing lives in such disasters. Especially, in countries as Nepal, where unfortunately the rate of uneducated women is still very high. One more reason for us, to support the kids’ education as best as we can through our Butterfly Help Project (www.butterflyhelpproject.org).
Building assessment: the Nepal government, though a team of experts of its Department of Urban Development and Building Construction (DUDBC), is preparing to re-assess all housing apartments in Kathmandu Valley after the recent powerful earthquakes. Three categories of buildings are made: i) unsafe, ii) safe to stay and, iii) need of some maintenance. The assessment is done in two parts, first based on visual assessment, then on a detailed inspection. But their is an urgent need of additional engineers…there are only 400 structural engineers in Nepal. It results in having several thousand people that are still languishing in makeshift shelters as they have not found an engineer for consultation about the safety of their houses.
Buildings demolition: Government lacks equipment to demolish multi-storey buildings; due to the lack of technical knowledge and machines to demolish broken houses threatening others by the governement, some of the owners have taken their own initiative because of the danger for the neighbourhood. The government has issued a circular that house owners will get relief as per the policy even if they demolish the structures themselves. However, it seems that the decision on how the government will financially assist homeowners who demolish their houses on their own has not been published yet, many people are hesitant even though it poses a risk to others. According to the Deputy Commissioner at Kathmandu Valley “It is a matter of shame that the government is passive about this. It lacks manpower and technology to demolish structures. The government own two 22 tonnes and two 12 tonnes cranes. There is no policy and plan to use mild explosion to demolish structures inside the alleys and stories above five.” Such statement is confirmed by the Secretary at the Ministry of Urban Development “obviously it is time consuming, while the government lacks resources, manpower and expertise. The government has no technology and equipment to demolish structures behind five-storey buildings. The government is asking for assistance from neighbouring countries and is encouraging homeowners to demolish structures themselves as they can save and reuse construction materials.” It seems that till to date the government has demolished 150 houses with the assistance from the District Administration Office, Nepal Army, Nepal Police and Nepal Armed Force.
Reconstruction plan: one of the main suggestion that should be an integral part of future disaster preparedness and management planning according to the population of Kathmandu is to increase the open spaces in the Kathmandu Valley. Earthquake resistance construction, strict enforcement of building codes, zoning laws and open spaces are the key dimensions to improve the process of assessing the emergency preparedness as stated in the media by a Senior economist at the Institute for Intergrated Development Studies.
the Himalaya due to its situation in the middle of the two continental tectonic plates (Eurasia and Indian) being naturally exposed to such risk, then in case of fire and other natural disasters. “Unplanned physical structures are the major cause of the large number of death toll. It is therefore extremely important for the government to make and formulate strict national building code” as stated by the media.
Relief money: the Government has decided to allocate USD 360 for and USD 400 not yet distributed.
– Geological survey: the Government has recently planned to conduct a geological survey of 6 earthquake affected districts with 18 task forces of geologists. The teams chosen for such survey will base their study on field surveys and satellite data. The aim is that the geological report submitted by the task forces would help the Government to relocate human settlements of the areas rattled by the earthquake and give exact number of human settlements affected by the earthquake in order to help to plan the resettlement of the affected people, together with an assessment of the risks of landslides in such areas.
Schools: according to the Department of Education, around 30,000 classrooms and 3,550 school buildings in 45 districts, including in the Kathmandu Valley, were damaged by the earthquakes and aftershocks. Parents are want now schools to resume as a dad says “Had the children started going to the school from May 14, things would have fallen in place, as they would have got time to play and interact with friends which would have helped them forget the disaster.” After the 25 April quake, the government had announced closure of the schools and said that classes would resume from May 14. But following to the 12 May quake, the government said the schools would remain close for another two weeks. Schools are now due to open on May 31. Even some of the students seem more and more missing going to school: a 16-year young girl of the Gorkha region (near to the Mount Manaslu, 8163 meters) explains that one part of her school has collapsed and some other parts were damaged, which render it not safe enough to resume school in its original buildings, and furthermore she is daily busy in fetching mud to help her parents rebuild their family house, but “I miss going to school. I always liked getting up in the morning and helping my parents in doing household chores before heading for school. It always felt good to learn new things from our teachers”.

Sport
Stadiums as campsites: “A revered national sports coach is among the thousands of dead, trapped in his rented house when devasting earthquakes rocked Nepal. The main football stadium was damaged, before becoming a makeshift refuge for displaced survivors of the quakes. The national cricket team’s preparations for a major international tournament next are in disarray. The Asian weightlifting championships, schduled for Kathmandu in July, are destined to be held somewhere else.” (Repubica / International New York Times, 20 May 2015).
Sport as new energy: despite this tragic situation, people are enccouraged by the National Olympic Committee of Nepal to turn their attention back to sport to help them to overcome traumatic experiences. According to the Head of the Nepal National Olympic Committee “Our primary focus is to create a healthy environment for athletes. We are planning to distribute sports kits at earthquake hit areas since we believe sports to be the best tool to restore normalcy.”
– Testimony of a young Nepali high-level athlete: a few days ago, there was an article in the Nepal media about a 12-year old Nepali girl competing in swimming, who is now residing and training hard in London, UK. She has set her eyes high, at the next FINA World Championships, Asian Games and the Olympic Games. Her testimony is touching: “My father is helping people heal (in Nepal) using his skills as a doctor. I want to use my skills as a swimmer to give some hope and happiness by doing well in the FINA World Championships.” She was in Nepal at the time of the first earthquake of 25 April 2015 as she came to participate in the 20th National Swimming Championship.

As a conclusion, to help Nepal is not only during the close period after these earthquakes, but to help Nepal has to go on for years and one of the main support is to come back to Nepal from the next season, namely this Autumn. This will permit Nepal and the numerous people living from the tourism income to go on with the rebuilding of their country.
Finally, we adress a special thought to all these families that have lost one of theirs and those who need now to rebuild their losses.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR PRECIOUS SUPPORT!

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Sources:

– Testimonies of Norbu’s friends and others
– the Kathmandu Post
– the Himalayan Times

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