Disaster Law and Displacement in Nepal, Ctd

Fresh off its 7.8 magnitude earthquake on April 25, a 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal today about 80km to the east of the capital, Kathmandu.  The aftershock further exacerbates the displacement of populations who have been without meaningful shelter for weeks.

As detailed after the April 25 quake, building codes and construction standards have an enormous impact on the final death tolls.  In this case, it appears that many children were spared from the quake because the Nepalese government had wisely chosen to close what schools and colleges remained upright until May 14 in order to inspect their integrity.  While sustained school closures present short-term disruptions to youth development and education, the regulation in this case may have been worth the short-term costs.  

As if the April 25 quake wasn't enough, this is another reminder to rapidly developing countries in the region to get their building codes, construction standards, and disaster management plans in order.  

Disaster Law and Displacement, Nepal Edition

Disaster Law and Displacement, Nepal Edition

Earlier this month I wrote about displacement and disaster in Haiti, highlighting some legal obstacles that were (and still are) frustrating efforts to reduce displaced populations after the 2010 earthquake.  The legal framework was weak on three fronts: domestically, building codes were not optimized for seismic activity and rarely enforced, while property documentation processes were confusing; regionally, while the Dominican Republic pledged aid at first, long-running tensions emerged eventually; and internationally the NGO and intergovernmental community operated without meaningful checks and balances.  

On Saturday, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal, with an epicenter roughly 80 kilometers from the capital and most populous city, Kathmandu.  Compare that to Haiti's 7.0 magnitude earthquake 25 km from Port au Prince, Haiti's capital and most populous city, and the seismology looks similar.  But vulnerability is a product not only of earthquake strength and duration, but population and property preparedness as well.  A comparison between rich and poor countries illustrates the dynamic quite well (see chart below the jump).

So far the impact of the earthquake in Nepal - and immediate relief efforts - appear to be mirroring the Haitian experience.  The death toll (so far) is lower than estimated for the region, but hundreds of thousands of survivors are sprawled across large tent cities near Kathmandu, with power, freshwater, food, and hospital services being stretched thin.  International relief agencies are pouring into the country, and the relief effort will inevitably become a rebuilding project, with familiar echoes of Haiti's infamous "Build Back Better" campaign.   Given the impending transition in Nepal, it's worth comparing the lessons of Haiti's experience with the Nepalese context.  

Low building code standards and enforcement

Nepal ranks near the bottom in a list of countries on preparedness for natural disasters.  Despite being located on a known fault-line, Kathmandu, like Port au Prince, did not develop stringent building codes, zoning laws, or urbanization management plans to mitigate risk.  What plans do exist have not been enforced.  According to The Atlantic's City Lab:

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