In 2015, a magnitude 7.8 quake struck just outside Kathmandu, killing thousands of people and displacing nearly half a million. A few weeks later, another massive quake struck—with tremors so strong it shook buildings 1,000 miles away, in New Delhi. Launching landslides that devastated rural villages, decimated whole families, and forever changed the lives of a quarter of Nepal’s population.
It also shined a harsh light on the human and economic costs of poor building construction practices, inadequate maintenance, and failure to comply with building codes. Prior to these catastrophes, rapid urbanization led Nepal to build environments that ended up highly vulnerable to disasters.
A plan to rebuild
Picking up the pieces wouldn’t be easy. Nor would it be enough. To heal from these back-to-back tragedies, Nepal needed a forward-thinking plan. To prepare for the unexpected and rebuild stronger than ever, in spirit and in infrastructure.
That’s the goal of the Nepal Urban Resilience Project (NURP)—a 5-year program to ensure more resilient urban areas, which ICF disaster management and urban development experts are currently undertaking.
It requires 3 interlocking components:
- Risk-sensitive land use and overall spatial planning.
- Proven resilient building construction techniques.
- Improved analysis and implementation capacity at both the municipality and community level.
—Mads Jensen, ICF vice president for international development
Designing for resilience
At the local level, our team will help up to 7 of the largest urban centers outside Kathmandu valley design more disaster-resilient urban buildings, infrastructure, and services. That’s over 1 million people who stand to benefit as we strengthen communities’ disaster risk assessment capabilities, plans, and business systems. We’ll manage land risk mapping and update disaster preparedness plans.
Giving local governments a stronger role in urban planning and development presents a unique opportunity for the federal government to introduce and mainstream urban resilience. Across Nepal, we’ll:
- Work with various stakeholder agencies to improve disaster-resilient land use planning including a land administration system to build awareness, develop capacity, and intervene as needed at the municipal level.
- Revive the design and implementation of a sustainable, portable, and scalable municipal building permit system based on common data standards.
- Develop a more consistently defined and better integrated land, house, and building tax base for municipalities.
- Identify a pipeline of viable urban development projects to catalyze public and private investment, and to promote inclusive urban economic growth.
People expect municipal governments to deliver better services, but local governments have little access to data. Urban resilience requires coordination between communities, governmental and non-governmental players, and the private sector. We’ll ensure local governments have a robust risk information management system—and the human (and technical) capacity to build resilience. Our work will ensure land use and development plans are risk-sensitive, to reduce potential negative impacts of climate change and natural hazards.
Experience in Nepal
Guiding our plan, too, is insight gained from a long history of working in-country. We understand Nepal’s governance and accountability through 15 years of work on reforms, including the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Low Emissions Asia Development (LEAD) project to create more energy without more pollution.
We have a comprehensive view of the Nepali people, through our efforts with the Nepal Demographic and Health Survey, which informs health policy on issues like child nutrition, women’s empowerment, infectious diseases, and domestic violence. And, perhaps more directly, we support the Kathmandu hub of the SERVIR initiative, which integrates satellite observations, ground-based data, and forecast models to better predict and protect from natural disaster.
Not to mention that ICF was on the scene from the start, giving us the perspective and context to make a lasting impact. We were there, as soon as doors opened to foreign aid, to help the government rebuild wells and restore drinking water for almost 73,000 Nepalese households.
—Gabriella Bazzano, ICF vice president for international development
A history of preparing communities
For 45 years, ICF has helped vulnerable countries, communities, and development agencies better prepare for, respond to, and recover from natural disasters, today and in the future.