Protection Civile et Operations d'Aide Humanitaire Européennes

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Nepal: living with landslides

A woman participating in a landslide awareness training organised by the EU’s partner People in Need. © PiN/Nepal.

Residents in the central Nepalese district of Sindhupalchowk have to struggle through one natural hazard after another. This year, the landslides triggered by the monsoon season have only added to their woes. With EU humanitarian funding, People in Need works with rural communities to increase their resilience by mitigating and better tackling landslides.

Story and photos by Sajana Shrestha, communication and advocacy Manager, People in Need, Nepal

"It's really difficult for me to think about the incident and the loss that I suffered is unfathomable,” says Krishna Bahadur Newar, whose home in Barhabise, a municipality in Sindhupalchowk, was swept away by a recent landslide.

“The sudden landslide not only took away my home and property but also my wife, leaving me and my injured son all alone. I was frightened and furious at the same time for losing everything," he says.

In some places the whole hill comes down, wiping out the whole settlement, says Jampa Tsering Lama, a coordinator for People in Need, an EU partner. When we see these places, you would never know that there was a settlement before. When the landslide is minor, people can recover their livelihood, but if the impact is high, their livelihood and property are wrecked, leaving people with no choice but to relocate to safer areas.”

The monsoon rainfall is considered the primary reason for landslides in hilly areas of Nepal. However, improper land use and non-engineered road constructions have also contributed to increased landslides in recent decades.

In addition, the massive 2015 Nepal earthquake, which killed almost 9,000 people and injured nearly 22,000, have further exacerbated the problem by severely weakening the landmass and increasing the risk of future landslides.

With humanitarian funding from the European Union, People in Need and its partners are implementing a program designed to increase the resilience of communities in rural hill areas through the effective mitigation and management of landslides.

The aim is to work with local authorities and communities, as well as people involved in road construction and infrastructure project, to increase the understanding of landslide hazards.


A training session on landslide assessment and mitigation targeting local engineers. © PiN/Nepal.

Innovative tools to learn about landslides

The project, in Sindhupalchowk and Dolakha districts, engages local authorities and disaster management bodies in a series of capacity-building programs.

They use innovative hazard and risk-mapping tools, as well as awareness-raising campaigns and workshops for local committees, schools, private contractors and engineers - all to enhance their knowledge of hazards and their impact on humans.

The project uses custom-built 3D landslide models to demonstrate to communities how landslides occur and the possible causes behind them, how to interpret early signs and symptoms and various cost-effective mitigation measures to minimize risks at a local level.

In addition, the project also organises awareness campaigns around the effects of human activities and infrastructure development works, particularly road constructions, as well as effective ways to mitigate landslide risks through bioengineering, slope monitoring and maintenance techniques.

The project also teaches preparedness, response and rehabilitation activities that can be done at a personal and community level to ensure safety against landslides. For example, the students learnt that planting vegetation on the drywalls and maintaining proper drainage in their backyards can stop soil erosion.

To help the building of better roads, the project also trained local engineers on landslide assessment and mitigation, as well as helping to formulate construction guidelines.

In the past, men and women used to construct road manually,” recalls Gauri Maya Shrestha, a local resident. “We used to dig with shovels and other local resources. Now, back-hoe loaders are used everywhere and it’s destroying everything.

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