Using Innovative Technology for Earthquake Preparedness
Often, the buildings in urban areas are not built in an earthquake safe manner.
And this haphazard development ends up taking lives in the face of disasters like earthquakes. Nepal ranks eleventh on the global risk for earthquakes, with research indicating that Western Nepal is particularly susceptible to earthquakes which will have a catastrophic impact.
So how do you know how safe the buildings are, in a cost-effective way?
One way is through a Rapid Vulnerability Assessment (RVA).
The RVA is an innovative tool that externally assesses and identifies individual buildings that face multi-hazard risks, particularly earthquakes. To assess the safety of the buildings, the European Union Humanitarian Aid funded Strengthening Urban Preparedness, Earthquake Preparedness and Response in Western Regions of Nepal Project (SUPER) conducted structural assessments of 4,000 building across its working areas in Dhangadhi Sub-Metropolitan City, Amargadhi Municipality and Nepalgunj Sub-Metropolitan City.
Mr. Shailesh Bahadur Shrestha, Team Leader at Innovative Solutions says, “We developed this assessment method together with UNDP in 2015. We are now using this to assess approximately 4,000 houses in select wards of Dhangadhi, Amargadhi and Nepalgunj to see how they will cope against earthquakes – all densely populated urban areas.”
SUPER, through Innovative Solutions, has been working closely with the three municipalities on ensuring better earthquake preparedness and response measures. “A specific set of questions were designed to assess the structure of the house externally and inform whether they seemed earthquake resilient. For this we worked with field engineers and field enumerators on the grounds using KOBO tool to collect data and feed into a mobile application,” says Kabita Bade Shrestha, Data Analyst at Innovative Solutions.
Assessing the potential impact for loss and damages that an earthquake may cause in urban areas helps inform integrated disaster risk management policies. It strengthens disaster and emergency response plans. And this is the goal of the RVA – to ensure that the municipalities realize the value of conducting these assessments to inform policy practices around resilient construction and scale this up. The output generated from the RVA of 4,000 houses in 6 wards, with primary data, will help in demarcating vulnerable structures and access choke points during earthquake and fire. “We hope to allocate dedicated funds to assess the safety of the schools, hospitals and government buildings in the Sub-Metropolitan City in the next fiscal year,” says the Mayor of Dhangadhi, Mr. Gopal Hamal.
And in the process, SUPER also wants to ensure technical and knowledge transfer so that there is national level capacity to scale up and sustain the good impact of the project interventions. The mobile based application and dashboard, whereabouts of the local trained enumerators will be handed over to the respective municipalities. Moreover, the municipality engineers will be trained on implicating RVA tools so that it will be continued beyond project period and replicated in other interventions. Mr. Prashant Rimal is an engineer who was engaged in the RVA in Dhangadhi. He shares, “My team and I oriented the enumerators as well as the municipality officials on what a Rapid Vulnerability Assessment is and worked with the field enumerators to collect the data. I feel that all the enumerators were able to get a taste of real-world work experience in the process of RVA.”
The RVA serves as a first step to understand the risk of the building so as to move to a more in-depth analysis. The Mayor of Amargadhi Municipality Mr. Dilli Raj Joshi says, “The RVA revealed that my own house is vulnerable to potential hazards. This indicates a clear need for construction practices to abide by the law, and we look forward to ensuring this in our municipality thanks to the study.”
Like the Mayor in Amargadhi, the stakeholders in Nepalgunj Sub-Metropolitan City also see the utility of the RVA and call for it to be scaled up in other wards. They reflected that the RVA contains many important information such as on vulnerability, population, vulnerable population, which can be used for risk-transfer through insurance. In fact, Nepalgunj is in the process of drafting a working policy for the municipality to cover at least NRs. 500 monthly premium on houses that are valued at NRs. 15 lakh.
SUPER, under the EU Humanitarian Aid’s generous financial support, is being implemented by UNDP, UNICEF and UN Women. The project seeks to enhance municipal and provincial preparedness for impending urban and earthquake risks for effective disaster response in select places in the western regions of Nepal. It operates at the provincial level in Lumbini Province, Karnali Province and Sudurpaschim Province; and at the municipal level in Nepalgunj Sub Metropolitan City, Dhangadhi Sub Metropolitan City, Amargadhi Municipality and Jay Prithvi Municipality.