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Disasters, Conflicts and Migration

Nepal experiences earthquakes, landslides, floods, thunderstorms, Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF), avalanches, fires, droughts and epidemics. Over the past 28 years, 69 major / significant natural disasters have occurred in Nepal resulting in approximately 10,000 deaths. These disasters affected 4.4 million people.

Natural Disasters

Type

Occurs

Comments / Details

Drought

Yes

Western Nepal has experienced consecutive and worsening winter drought conditions since 2000, culminating in a severe drought episode during 2008 / 09. The worst hit areas are the Mid Western and Far Western regions.

Earthquakes

Yes

The entire country is rated moderate to high risk for earthquakes due to the Indian continent moving northwards at about 30 mm a year. A major earthquake was recorded in 1934 and killed an estimated 20,000 people. On 25 April 2015, an earthquake of magnitude 7.8 struck 80 km to the Northwest of Kathmandu; on 12 May 2015 a second earthquake of magnitude 7.3 struck 76 km Northeast of Kathmandu.

The accepted worst case scenario is that a magnitude 8.6 earthquake (15 times stronger than April 2015) would strike from Kathmandu to the Far West and into the Terai region (adjacent to India). This is projected to cause 175,000- 190,000 deaths, injure 2.5 – 3.5 million people, and leave 7 million people homeless. See the Nepal Red Cross Society Kathmandu Valley Earthquake Contingency Plan for more information.

Epidemics

YesThe first recorded cholera epidemic took place in 1823, followed by a series of epidemics occurring in the Kathmandu Valley in 1831, 1843, 1856, 1862, and 1887. The largest cholera outbreak, with more than 30,000 people affected, was in the West in 2009. It tends to be seasonal with most cases reported during the monsoon season which starts in June and usually ends by October. The Mid Western and Far Western regions are usually the hardest hit because of poor sanitation and inadequate public health arrangements.

Extreme Temperatures

YesDue to the extreme elevation changes within Nepal, there are major temperature differences. The Terai, or Nepali lowlands bordering India, can experience very high temperatures up to 46° C.

Flooding

YesFloods are common during the monsoon season.

Insect Infestation

NoN/A

Mudslides

YesLandslides are common in the mountain regions, particularly during the monsoon season.

Volcanic Eruptions

NoN/A

High Waves / Surges

NoN/A

Wildfires

YesWhile not a major threat, wildfires do occur.

High Winds

YesStorms, in general, do result in significant damage.
Man-Made Issues

Civil Strife

YesThere are frequent political strikes, or bandhs, called by political parties to protest particular issues. These are common and cause major disruptions as roads are often blocked for days by these strikes.

International Conflict

NoN/A

Internally Displaced Persons

NoN/A

Refugees Present

Yes

Nepal offers asylum to a considerable number of refugees, although it is not a signatory of the 1951 Refugee Convention. There are nearly 14,750 refugees and asylum-seekers in Nepal  (Source: UNHCR Nepal Regional Profile

Landmines / UXO Present

YesNepal was declared free from landmines and unexploded ordnance in June 2012 (Source: The Guardian)

For more detailed database on disasters by country, please see the Centre for Research on Epidemiology of Disasters Country Profile.

Calamities and Seasonal Effects

Seasonal Effects on Transport

Transport Type

Time Frame

Comments

Primary Road Transport

June - SeptemberMahendra Highway runs across the Terai region of Nepal, from Mechinagar in the east to Bhim Datta in the west, cutting across the entire width of the country. It is the longest highway in Nepal and was constructed by the India Central Public Works Department. It is mostly a single lane in each direction. The highway is just over 1,000 km (620 mi). For more information, see Roads in Nepal.

Secondary Road Transport

June - SeptemberLandslides and poor road conditions are a major problem for the secondary roads. Heavy rains cause numerous landslides and cut off remote areas. The economic impact of this is huge as farmlands, houses and pastures are lost.

Rail Transport

N/AThere is only one functioning Nepalese passenger railway in Nepal. This 59 km narrow gauge railway (2 ft 6 in / 762 mm) runs between Janakpur (26.72861, 85.925) in Nepal and Jainagar in India close to the border. However, it is frequently closed for maintenance and not used for humanitarian response.

Air Transport

June - SeptemberDuring the monsoon season, heavy rains, fog and strong winds disrupt regional airports.

Waterway Transport

N/AN/A

Seasonal Effects on Storage and Handling

Activity Type

Time Frame

Comments

Storage

June - September

Storage of goods can become a major issue during the monsoon season because roads are impassable. It may be advisable to pre-position goods in anticipation of this. Another issue may be the backlog of goods at the origination point if trucks, etc. are unable to move the goods out.

Handling

June - September

The same holds true for the handling of goods. Considerable pre-planning is recommended.


Climate and Weather

Nepal's climate varies with its topography. It ranges from sub-tropical to arctic depending upon the altitude. The Terai region has a hot and humid climate. The mid-land region are pleasant almost all the year round although winter nights are cool. The northern mountain region, around an altitude above 3,353 m, has an alpine climate with considerably lower temperatures in winter. 

Monsoon: The monsoon of Nepal creates two distinct wet and dry seasons. Wet days of summer are monsoon days. Most of the rainfall in Nepal occurs during the monsoon in summer, with the rest of the year being dry. Spring and autumn are in between seasons. In general the monsoon begins from mid-June and ends at beginning of September. The months of seasons vary with altitude and slope of the mountains. Northern slopes and higher altitudes are less warm than those of southern slopes and lower altitudes. The rainy season depends on monsoon activities. It mostly rains at night, making the following days clean and fresh. The length of summer and autumn also depend on the monsoon. Most of the northern belt of the Trans-Himalayan zone is monsoon-shadowed and ideal for trekking. The climate of the Kathmandu valley can be taken as a standard.

Summer: Summer, which is May to August, is the hottest season in Nepal. Hot but dry days are more comfortable than monsoon days which are hot and humid. 

Autumn: Autumn, from September to November, begins with the end of monsoon season and ends with beginning of winter in November. It is also a festival season. 

Winter: Winter is from November through February. Winter days are dry with few rains. A typical day in the Kathmandu valley in winter season is as warm as 20° C on a sunny day but night temperatures fall below freezing. Western Nepal has more rain than Eastern Nepal in the winter.

Spring: Spring, from February to April, begins with occasional showers and rain. The days are mild and can be a little hazy if there are no showers for a long period.

Capacity and Contacts for In-Country Emergency Response

Government

Nepal is rated by the World Bank as one of the global “hot-spots” for natural disasters. Various studies list Nepal as the 11th most at risk in terms of relative vulnerability to earthquakes, 6th at risk to climate change and 30th at risk of floods. In response to the vulnerabilities Nepal faces, the Government has seriously embarked on a comprehensive strategy to mitigate and respond to the various disasters and emergencies that occur. The lead ministry in dealing with disaster mitigation and response is the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA). The Natural Calamity Rescue Act of 1982 and the Local Self-Governance Act of 1999 provide the framework for all levels of government to work together on disaster reduction and response.

The key ministries involved in disaster reduction and response and their main contributions, in addition to the Ministry of Home Affairs, are the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Agriculture, and Ministry of Local Development. In addition to the coordination that the above ministries provide, the District Development Offices (DDCs) play a vital role in the process of decentralizing disaster risk management to the district and municipal levels. The Nepal Army, along with the Armed Police and Police, assist as emergency responders by providing more than 150 medical first responders, collapsed structure search and rescuers, and disaster response instructors. Search and rescue equipment is pre-positioned throughout the country.

Hospitals throughout the country carry out periodic emergency response drills. The Department of Mines and Geology has a network of 21 seismic stations, the Department of Survey has access to satellite mapping and interpretation as well as real-time operation of continuous GPS stations, and the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology has monitoring stations countrywide. 

The Government of Nepal recognizes the important roles UN, INGOs and national NGOs play in disaster reduction and emergency response and has incorporated them into the overall planning and response process. 


For more information on government contact details, please see the following links: 

4.1 Nepal Government Contact List

Nepal Ministries and Departments


For information on the Nepal government's capacity for in-country emergency response, please see the following documents: 

Nepal National Disaster Response Framework (July 2013)

Nepal Disaster and Risk Profile

Nepal Disaster Response Coordination Structures


Humanitarian Community

The Nepal Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) was established in April 2006. Members of the IASC are selected UN Agencies and INGOs and the Red Cross movement. The Nepal IASC meets on a monthly basis or whenever the situation requires.
 

For more information on humanitarian agency contact details, please see the following link: 

4.2 Nepal Humanitarian Agency Contact List

 

For more information on the humanitarian community in Nepal, please see the following links / documents:

UN Nepal Information Platform

List of NGOs