Risk and Vulnerability

With such a diverse landscape, ranging from the massive Himalayan range to the fertile Terai region, the people of Nepal face a variety of life-threatening hazards. Classified as a global hotspot (World Bank, 2005), Nepal is vulnerable to multiple natural disaster, suffering an average of 900 natural disasters each year resulting in lost lives and damaged livelihoods (MoHA, 2009). The major disasters include earthquakes, floods, landslides, windstorms, hailstorms, fire, glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs) and avalanches. A report of UNDP, BCPR (2004) has ranked Nepal as the 11th most at-risk country in world to earthquakes and 30th most at-risks to floods and landslides; in term of relative vulnerability.

Similarly, between 1971 and 2007, over 27000 people lost their lives, more than 50000 people were injured, 3000 missing and nearly 5 million were affected because of natural disasters in Nepal (NRRC, 2013). It’s no doubt that Nepal is facing a problem of mushrooming population with the growth rate of 1.35% with 25.16% people living under poverty line (CBS, 2011). Similarly, there’s a huge increase in urbanization at recent times. The urbanization is occurring in a haphazard manner with little regard to averting risk and placing more lives in danger specifically with regard to earthquake. According to a report of MoHA (2009), annually floods and landslides cause 300 deaths in Nepal and economic damages exceeding US $ 10 million causing sustainable development a challenge both at national and local level.

The Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015 has emphasized the disaster risk reduction (DRR) to be integrated into plans, policies and programmes; for the sustainable development, poverty reduction and good governance. The government of Nepal (GoN) has also taken steps towards DRR and DRM.

Emergence of the DRR Flagship programmes

The government of Nepal launched Nepal Risk Reduction Consortium (NRRC) in May 2009 as a unique institutional arrangement, bringing together financial institutions, development partners, the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement, and the UN in partnership with the Government of Nepal.


The work of the NRRC builds on the National Strategy for Disaster Risk Management (NSDRM), approved in 2009. Following this approval and discussions of stakeholders on the basis of government’s priority, five flagship areas for DRM in Nepal were identified. They are: Flagship 1: School and Hospital Safety; Flagship 2: Emergency preparedness and response capacity; Flagship 3: Flood management in Koshi River basin; Flagship 4: Integrated Community-based disaster risk reduction/ management; Flagship 5: Policy/ Institutional support for disaster risk management


Flagship 1: School and Hospital Safety:

Natural disasters pose a significant threat to critical facilities, such as schools and hospitals that are socially, economically and operationally essential to the community during both normal life and crisis situations. As many new schools and hospitals are build in Nepal without considering safety, the young and infirm are most vulnerable to disasters.


The September 2011 earthquake along the Nepal- India border resulted in 128 schools destroyed with another 547 damaged (NRRC, 2013). A school child in Kathmandu is 400 times more likely to die in an earthquake than a school child in Kobe, Japan (Geo Hazards International, 2001); the two cities at comparable risk of significant earthquake activity. Looking this danger, Community-based School Earthquake Safety programmes was recognized as a sustainable mitigation process including the seismic retrofitting of buildings (NSET, Geo Hazards International, 2000).


The September 2011 earthquake along the Nepal-India border resulted in 26 completely destroyed and 38 damaged health facilities. 80% of the assessed hospitals are classed as unacceptable for new construction, with the remaining 20% at high risk of life-threatening collapse (NSET, WHO-Nepal, 2003). Similarly, MoHP, 2010 prioritized 7 hospitals: Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital (TUTH), Sri Birendra Hospital, Civil Services Hospital, Patan Hospital, Bir Hospital, Kanti Children’s Hospital and Maternity Hospital for retrofitting and operational improvements:

Health Sector Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Response Plan was prepared in Nepal in 2003 to enhance the disaster preparedness and health care facility of hospital. Also, in 2009, Nepal signed the Kathmandu Declaration on Protecting Health Facilities from Disasters.

Flagship 2: Emergency Preparedness and Response Capacity:

Natural disasters affect Nepal daily and a major earthquake directly affecting KV will occur; it isn’t a question of whether it will happen, but when. Given the primacy of capital; a disaster that severely affecting KV will surely affect the whole Nepal. As a huge disaster will consequently result in loss of life, severe damage to infrastructures, communications and key decision makers might be unavailable (NRRC, 2013).

Disaster preparedness is a fifth priority of HFA which emphasizes the role of government in preparing for major disasters and taking adequate steps to effectively respond to maximize recovery. Though, historically, the DRM systems in Nepal have been relief and response oriented with little coordination between local, district and central levels. But in last 10 years, Nepal has placed a renewed focus upon risk reduction and preparedness as well as response.

Under Flagship 2, the district-level Mass Casualty Planning and Rapid Response (RR) Training is provided in coordination with Health Contingency Plans. Under this, 35 districts have completed health sector disaster contingency plans.

For the successful relief operations in a major emergency, there’s a need to protect and pre-position supplies to cater for disruption to land and air transport links. The warehouses must be constructed, upgraded or renovated and be accessible to the open spaces where it is likely that Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) will be displaced.

Flagship 3: Flood Management in The Koshi River Basin:

Flood and landslides cause an average of 300 deaths per year in Nepal and economic damage exceeding US$10million (MoHA, 2009). Most floods in Nepal occur during the monsoon season, between June and September, when 80% of the annual precipitation falls, coinciding with the snowmelt in the mountains (MoE, 2004) (Regmi, 2007). Similarly, most part of the middle mountains and Terai are exposed to severe flooding (NSET, 2008).

In Nepal, several intensities of rainfall of more than 400mm in 24-hour period have been recorded by DHM. However, with changing land use and other associated development activities, less rainfall (as low as 40mm per hour during monsoon) can result in damaging landslides and flash floods (ADRC, 1998). In Nepal, different instances of floods are reported and among them Koshi flood is one.

The Koshi, a major tributary of the Ganga, and the largest river basin in Nepal, has the catchment of 60,500 sq, km, 52% lies in Nepal.  It is one of the most flood prone rivers affecting communities of Terai as well as Bihar in India. On 18th August 2008, its eastern embankment near Paschim Kusaha Village in Sunsari District breached and river changed its course causing a huge flood.

Table: Loss due to Koshi Flood of 2008.





People affected/ displaced



People killed



Hectares arable land damaged


Total loss

3.7 Million in US$ loss estimates

Flagship 4: Integrated Community-Based Disaster Risk Reduction:

Nepal has over 39500 VDCs, and 58 municipalities, each facing a range of risks to disasters, risks that are increasing due to climate change, improper land use, rapid population growth and urbanization (NRRC, 2013). Communities bear the brunt of most disasters in Nepal, which cost not only lives and property but also set back development gains. These same communities are also the forefront of DRR and response. CBDRR is a practical approach that supports community efforts to increase their own disaster resiliency and allows them to better withstand the impacts of disasters.

Flagship 4 on CBDRR is one of the five flagships of the NRRC. It aims to develop consensus among the many organizations contributing to CBDRR across the country towards a common approach to achieve national targets and encourage greater investment for scaling up CBDRR in Nepal. This is led by ministry of Local Development with support from the international Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and targeting the completion of 1000 CBDRR projects at VDC level within 5 years.

Flagship 5: Policy and institutional support for DRM:

DRM is mainstreamed in the upcoming periodic plan, and a number of line ministries have already developed DRM aligned plans and policies (NPC, 2011). Water Induced Disaster Policy (2006), Nepal’s Water Strategy (2006) and Integrated Energy Strategy (2006) are included in this including 20 ministries (NRRC, 2013).

Flagship 5 will support the implementation of the NSDRM with a focus on updating and upgrading the various legislation, policies and plans which need to be made consistent with the strategy.

The high priority areas for flagship 5 are:

  1. Institutional and policy support for NSDRM
  2. Increasing the use of building codes and supporting RSLUP
  3. Strengthening national institutions for DRM capacity building
  4. Aiming financial mechanisms to RR and management
  5. Mainstreaming DRM and climate change adaptation in the development planning process


There is the high possibility of linking Flagship1 with Flagship 4. When linked to flagship 4, this will result in more resilient communities throughout KV and safeguarding measures for sustainability in future. However, school safety programme should not be limited within the Kathmandu Valley. Similarly, Flagship 2 will prepare and train medical first responders, develop disaster response and information management planning, warehouse and stockpile goods, prepare open spaces and facilitate international assistance for emergency response. And, Flagship 5 will integrate DRM in plans, policies and programmes at national, district and local levels and strengthen the enforcement and compliance of building codes. Hence, flagship programmes can address DRR in Nepal.