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The Earthquake That Shook Up a Government

Dec 27, 2017 3 Min. Read

In Nepal, disaster has ignited a newfound commitment to resilience among citizens and legislators.

The goats need herding; the maize needs milling. The children might even make it to school.

But in most of Nepal’s newly-drawn rural municipalities, finding fresh water is a village’s first and most pressing priority of the day. A catastrophic earthquake in April 2015 killed nearly 9,000 people and injured nearly 22,000, shaking the Kathmandu Valley and crumbling several of its centuries-old buildings. A rescue effort began immediately.

“The first responders acted swiftly,” said Bruce Pollock, a Senior Consultant at ICF based in Kathmandu. “But the bulk of the recovery effort still lies ahead.”

Every 15 minutes, aftershocks amplified travelers’ fear and confusion as the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu shut down. Evacuated passengers waited outside on the tarmac while the airport swelled to capacity. Its running water and sewage system eventually stopped altogether.

The fallout at the airport foreshadowed what would become a national quagmire for the native Nepalese.

6,000 rivers, scarce drinking water

The poorest country in South Asia is a vision of struggle amidst beauty. Mount Everest’s colossal peaks overshadow the hazy pollution smog in Kathmandu. With 6,000 rivers, Nepal ranks second only to Brazil in abundance of water resources—but only 37 percent of the population maintains access to improved sanitation facilities.