Preparedness and planning for the mountain hazard and risk chain in Nepal

Lead Research Organisation: Durham University
Department Name: Geography

Abstract

Context
Nearly 1 bn people live in mountain landscapes within developing countries. Living with the impacts of multiple hazards in mountainous regions, such as monsoon rainfall, earthquakes and landsliding, is for many a day-to-day reality. Both the short- and long-term impacts of hazards are often exaggerated by their concurrent or sequential timing, and by the socio-political context in which they occur. This context results from fragmented government, rapid population change, and the very localized impacts of global (geo)political interests. As a result, hazards have recurring and disproportionate impacts on some of the most vulnerable members of society. While much research has been conducted on both the socio-political context and the individual hazards and risks that people face, this work is rarely used for disaster risk management.

Aims & objectives
To tackle this, we build on our existing long-standing collaborations with the aim of examining how best to develop and use new interdisciplinary science to help inform better decision making and reduce the impacts of multi-hazards in mountain countries. We focus on Nepal, which has many similarities to other lower-income countries that endure complex multi-hazards resulting from earthquakes and monsoon rainfall as well as emerging systemic risks. Nepal is also undergoing complex social, political and economic transformation associated with a change to a federal system of government and changing geopolitical pressures, all within a hazardous yet densely populated landscape.

The objectives of our research are each designed to make a significant difference to the ways in which residents, government, and the international community take decisions to manage multi-hazards and systemic risks. They include:

(1) Thinking critically about our current understanding of the social, political, economic and environmental context within which disasters occur in Nepal, and the data that we use to assess that context;

(2) Establishing a new approach to national-scale strategic-planning for complex multi-hazard events, which includes the consequences of linked earthquakes, monsoons and landslides;

(3) Developing interdisciplinary science to anticipate, plan for, and communicate the range of hazards that occur during the monsoon; and

(4) Finding the best ways to utilise local knowledge and interdisciplinary science to inform how to prepare for and respond to multi-hazard disasters.

Potential applications and benefit
To achieve our objectives, we bring together a team of Nepali and international researchers from a range of disciplines, including geoscience, social science and the humanities, who have track records in various facets of this issue. Together, we aim to: (1) develop new fundamental data and evidence to underpin decision-making, (2) establish pathways for getting the best possible information to those who need it, in a format and timeframe that are useful and usable, (3) think critically about how multi-hazards and risks can be effectively managed, and (4) nurture an environment that supports the young researchers and practitioners who will be the future of disaster risk management in Nepal.

We ground our proposal within the context of our long-term community-based work with rural residents in Nepal, and reflect upon their articulations of the need to make better decisions to reduce the risks that they face. We also build upon our work on managing risks with the Government of Nepal and the United Nations, who coordinate disaster planning in the country. The Government, UN, and major development and humanitarian organisations have been involved from the outset in developing this proposal to ensure an agile, joined-up, evidence-based approach to multi-hazard and risk management.

Planned Impact

Our research stems directly from knowledge gaps articulated by our partners in Nepal, including residents, local and central government, the UN, and humanitarian and development practitioners. The research is intended to benefit five specific groups:

1) Our primary goal is to positively impact residents living with systemic risk. We seek to better understand the socio-political and economic processes that affect everyday lives and through which systemic risk is produced and in which multi-hazards are experienced, using a co-produced and interdisciplinary approach. Our work will impact those tasked with managing risk to focus on the everyday needs of residents and ensure that efforts to reduce risk are placed within the appropriate physical and socio-political contexts. Where resources or capacity are lacking, we will work to enable local government to support residents to collectively manage their own risk by building on their own knowledge and providing new knowledge to support planning, forecasting, and messaging. We will also provide innovative means of messaging, using locally produced radio dramatisations, to exploit our new interdisciplinary science to improve decision-making, working with local people and local government to make this as effective as possible.

2) The UN Resident Coordinator's Office (RCO) and Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) are tasked with planning preparedness and response to major disasters, but this planning has had a limited scientific basis and concentrates on narrowly-defined impacts of earthquakes and flooding. There remains no consideration of dynamic multi-hazard scenarios and the risks they generate. Our project will benefit the RCO and HCT by grounding their plans in interdisciplinary science and by building greater awareness of the socio-political and physical context in which their planning sits, allowing cross-sectoral decisions that consider the impacts associated with multi-hazard events and evaluate the multi-temporal variation in risk caused by changing population exposure and vulnerability. The development of novel protocols to prepare for and respond to multi-hazard disasters will enable the RCO and HCT to make better, more effective use of local knowledge and interdisciplinary science.

3) Our previous work in Nepal has identified capacity gaps in government agencies at national, provincial and, most importantly, municipal levels. These gaps reflect a lack of understanding of the dynamic nature of the hazard chain and a lack of viable options for managing the consequent risk. Our project will benefit government risk management by significantly increasing capacity through developing and embedding a system for monitoring multi-hazard risk, and by situating this understanding within a broader socio-political context. We will engage with municipal government through existing networks and capacity-building programmes. This proposal is highly timely, coinciding with Nepal's transition to a new federal structure, allowing the research team to feed directly into new governance structures as they form.

4) Through the Community-Based Disaster Risk Management Platform, our work will have direct impact on the NGOs that implement disaster risk reduction projects. We will co-produce guidance on the use of local and scientific knowledge for reducing risk from the mountain hazard chain, as well as ethical and practical guidance for researchers on working with practitioners in Nepal.

5) The ethos of our project is based around developing the next generation of hazard and risk specialists in Nepal. We will support 15 early-career researchers, with 9 employed in Nepal. We will convene workshops specifically around skills and professional development for these researchers, and will also invite early-career professionals from our government, NGO, and UN project partners to provide the foundations for the future leaders of this sphere of work in Nepal.

Publications

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Raju E (2024) A conversation towards post-colonial futures for disaster risk reduction in South Asia in Disaster Prevention and Management: An International Journal

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Kincey M (2021) Evolution of Coseismic and Post-seismic Landsliding After the 2015 M w 7.8 Gorkha Earthquake, Nepal in Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface

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Shneiderman S (2022) Action beyond intent: experiencing ir/reconciliation (Afterword 2) in Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

 
Description The research has so far resulted in the following key findings or outcomes:
- New ways of understanding geohazards in Nepal from the perspective of people who are exposed to them, and who live with them on a day-to-day basis. This includes comparison of small-scale 'micro-adaptations' that people have developed to deal with hazards in the annual monsoon;
- Initial steps toward the production of an inventory of landslides and debris flows for the whole of Nepal, that can be updated year-by-year as new events occur;
- Development of a risk modelling framework that can account for hazards that are triggered by both monsoon rainfall and large, infrequent earthquakes;
- New ways of categorising monsoon forecasts in terms of historical rainfall patterns, as a way of enabling more robust planning to take place with the forecast information; and
- New understanding of the ways in which the Humanitarian Country Team prepares for disasters in advance, to enable a stronger scientific evidence base to be developed that can underpin those plans.
Exploitation Route The outcomes are already being used by the UN Resident Coordinator's Office and Humanitarian Country Team to support earthquake and monsoon contingency planning at a national scale. It is possible that the research outcomes may also be taken up in support of similar planning by the Government of Nepal (through the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Authority and the Department of Meteorology and Hydrology), and by other humanitarian organisations in the country. It is also possible that the research outcomes may be relevant for other countries that are exposed to earthquake- and monsoon-related hazards, and we are working with the Resident Coordinator's Office and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to identify these opportunities.
Sectors Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice,Other

URL https://www.sajag-nepal.org/
 
Description The research findings are being used by the UN Resident Coordinator's Office and Humanitarian Country Team to underpin and improve the national-scale Emergency Response Preparedness Plans. These are contingency plans for both earthquake- and monsoon-related impacts that are regularly reviewed and updated by the clusters that make up the Humanitarian Country Team. Project research is already used to underpin the earthquake plan, and we are in the process of working with the Humanitarian Country Team to refine the research findings so that they can be used in a similar way for the monsoon plan.
First Year Of Impact 2023
Sector Environment,Other
Impact Types Policy & public services

 
Description Support for development of Shelter Cluster contingency planning, Bagmati Province, Nepal
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Contribution to new or improved professional practice
 
Description GCRF and Newton Consolidation Account
Amount £49,989 (GBP)
Organisation United Kingdom Research and Innovation 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2022 
End 03/2023
 
Description Participatory Research Funding Allocation 2021/22
Amount £14,923 (GBP)
Organisation United Kingdom Research and Innovation 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2022 
End 07/2022
 
Description Department of Hydrology and Meterology 
Organisation Government of Nepal
Department Department of Hydrology and Meteorology,
Country Nepal 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Support for impact-based forecasting carried out as a pilot project by DHM in 2021 and 2022 monsoon seasons
Collaborator Contribution Sharing of information on impact-based forecasting risk matrices Sharing of short-term (1-3 day) precipitation forecasts
Impact Impact-based forecasting protocols and risk matrices
Start Year 2021
 
Description ADRRN Annual Meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Sajag-Nepal team members presented on the project to the Annual General Meeting of the Asian Disaster Risk Reduction Network
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Briefing to Humanitarian Country Team on Melamchi floods, June 2021 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Sajag-Nepal team members attended a meeting of the Humanitarian Country Team, chaired by the UN Resident Coordinator, and summarised what was known about the events in Melamchi and Helambhu palika on 24 June. They also passed on information and satellite imagery that had been collated by the project to the NDRRMA, Government of Nepal
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Contribution to Geographical Association GeogPod podcast 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact PI Densmore participated in the Geographical Association's GeogPod podcast series, describing the work on the Sajag-Nepal project and the evolution of earthquake and landslide hazard in Nepal after the 2015 earthquakes.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://www.geography.org.uk/GeogPod-The-GAs-Podcast
 
Description DHM training course 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Training workshop for weather forecasters in the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology, Government of Nepal, on impact-based weather forecasting. The workshop was run under the auspices of the ARRCC project, but Sajag-Nepal staff organised and ran the final day of the workshop. The audience consisted of forecasting staff at DHM as well as related staff from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Authority.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Earthquake Safety Week 2021 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Earthquake Safety Week: Project partner NSET hosted a workshop session on multi-hazard and risk assessment that included presentations from a number of ongoing research projects, and was chaired by the Chief Executive Officer of the NDRRMA, Anil Pokhrel. Nick Rosser spoke at the session on the ongoing NSET-Durham landslide mapping work and gave an introduction and overview of the Sajag-Nepal project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Earthquake Safety Week 2022 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Sajag-Nepal team members represented the project at the 2022 Earthquake Safety Week events, including a workshop on Earthquake Risk Reduction and Management in Nepal
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Engagement with Nepali media around slope stability monitoring 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Media coverage of slope stability monitoring by the project in four case-study municipalities around Nepal, January 2023
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2023
URL https://ekantipur.com/pradesh-3/2022/08/16/166061267684177251.html
 
Description Engagement with Nepali media around slope stability monitoring 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Media coverage following the presentation to the Kavre District Disaster Management Committee consultation meeting
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://gorkhapatraonline.com/news/22044
 
Description Engagement with Nepali media around slope stability monitoring 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Media coverage of slope stability monitoring by the project in four case-study municipalities around Nepal, January 2023
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2023
URL https://www.onlinekhabar.com/2023/01/1250360
 
Description Media event after Melamchi floods in June 2021 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Shobhana Pradhan and the team at BBC Media Action organised a knowledge-sharing session for Nepali media to discuss what was known, and not known, about the Melamchi floods in June 2021. Sajag-Nepal team members presented on the state of knowledge, followed by questions
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Nepal Conversations podcast 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Participation by Dr Sara Shneiderman, University of British Columbia, in Nepal Conversations podcast about social science research in Nepal, March 2022
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UofSSIEFG2o&t=180s
 
Description Panel discussion at COP26 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Project partner BBC Media Action led a panel discussion at COP26 followed by the publication of a policy note on the role of media in climate change adaptation and resilience. The discussion also involved project partner NDRRMA
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.comminit.com/global/content/and-action-how-media-can-address-climate-change-countries-mo...
 
Description Participation in Earthquake Safety Day 2022 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 25th Earthquake Safety Day (25ESD): the Sajag-Nepal team joined in the public events for 25ESD and had two activities, a poster and landslide demonstrator.
a. Poster presentation during 25ESD on landslide mapping. Visitors were told about the poster and ongoing work of Sajag-Nepal's landslide mapping
b. Landslide demonstrator for the general public and officials visiting ESD site this year in Kamal Pokhari, Kathmandu
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Participation in Regional Humanitarian Partnership Week, December 2022 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Members of the project team led a session by invitation at the Regional Humanitarian Partnership Week meeting in Bangkok in December 2022. This event brought together more than 300 people involved in humanitarian and disaster risk reduction, including practitioners, members of civil society organisations, UN and government representatives, and academics. The team presented on the partnership at the heart of the Sajag-Nepal project and suggested ways in which the partnership model might be utilised in other settings. There was a great deal of interest from participants from other countries affected by earthquake- and monsoon-related hazards, and the team were invited to return in 2023.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Presentation to Kavre District Disaster Management Committee consultation meeting, August 2022 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Presentation to DDRMC Consultation Meeting, Kavre District (August 14, 2022). Team members presented about Sajag-Nepal's work as invited by District Disaster Risk Management Committee (DDRMC) on their periodic 'Consultation Meeting'. The District Administration Office verbally called on the team to present the works carrying on in Kavre District, and were especially interested on the mapping activities, as well as the monitoring of landslides in Temal municipality. The consultation meeting was attended by different stakeholders working within district in the field of disaster risk management, including health, education, disaster risk reduction. Participants were gaunpalika/nagarpalika chairs/mayors, officials, representatives from different sectors including media representatives.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Presentation to the Nepal Geological Society 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Sajag-Nepal staff gave an online presentation on the project to the Nepal Geological Society as part of their monthly webinar series. More information is available on the NGS website (http://ngs.org.np/ngs-webinar-series-2021/)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL http://ngs.org.np/ngs-webinar-series-2021/
 
Description Regional Humanitarian Partnership Week, spring 2022 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Sajag-Nepal team members spoke as part of the Regional Humanitarian Partnership Week, which brings together representatives of government, NGOs, academia, and civil society organisations involved in diaster risk reduction across south and east Asia. The project formed a key example of collaborations and partnerships that can yield new information on our understanding of risk and provide new scientific evidence to underpin planning.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022