This past week, the Narayangadh-Muglin road has been blocked multiple times due to landslides. Moreover, statistics reveal that the fatality rate from landslides is higher in Nepal compared to other countries.
To explore this issue further, Aawaaj reached out to Dr. Basanta Raj Adhikari – Deputy Director, Centre for Disaster Studies at the Institute of Engineering, Tribhuvan University – who provided us with his insight on this topic.
According to Dr. Adhikari, a big reason for having a higher fatality rate is that the Himalayas has fragile geography, and monsoon causes a coupling effect to the landslide mechanism. On top of this, haphazard road construction in the mountain and hilly regions also increases the risk of casualty.
“Since there is no early warning system for landslides yet, people may construct their houses in landslide-prone areas due to lack of awareness,” he says.
An often overlooked socio-economic factor also affects the fatality rate and frequent infrastructure damage from landslides. “People living below the poverty line don’t have the necessary financial resources to move their home to a different location. Because of this, they often have to take the risk and live in a landslide-prone area even if they are aware of the risk involved.”
Furthermore, climate change has caused a change in the land-use pattern – the previously working natural drainage of monsoon water has been affected due to unusual monsoon timing from the changing climate.
“The change in rainfall patterns and natural wildfire patterns can affect soil moisture levels. Thus, erratic rainfall and long, dry winters make landslide occurrences more frequent.”
He emphasizes the need to create a Risk-Map of the whole country and include land use of houses to determine what population is more likely to be in danger. “Currently, we only have fragmented maps that cover small watersheds, and need to work on creating a proper country map for this,” says Dr. Adhikari.