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Working Together | 09 Oct 2013

Kathmandu: a community endeavor

Understanding earthquake risk, social vulnerability, and resilience in Kathmandu

Four use-cases are being developed within the GEM Social Vulnerability and Integrated Risk Project, to better understand and assess:

  • what factors drive population-based vulnerability to earthquakes and,
  • the earthquake risk in a number of regions, countries, and municipalities.

These use-cases call for a holistic evaluation of the scale and consequences of earthquake impacts. They provide a set of metrics, methods, and tools that will be integrated into the GEM modelling framework, incorporating the socio-economic characteristics of populations, and assessing seismic risk and impact potential beyond the estimation of direct physical impacts and loss of life. They will also measure the capacity of populations to respond to damaging events and provide a set of metrics for priority setting and decision-making.

As part of this project, a use-case is being developed for Kathmandu, Nepal (1). The use-case focuses on the effect of rapid urban growth and land-use change on the social vulnerability and risk of populations in Kathmandu at the sub-municipal level of geography. Through an indicator-based approach, the project will support the definition of a set of metrics for measuring socio-economic vulnerability in the context of rapid urban growth.

Following the international scientific meeting on “Regional Cooperation in Seismology and Earthquake Engineering in South and Central Asia” in Nargarkot, Kathmandu (September 16-19, 2013), GEM Senior Scientist, Dr. Christopher G. Burton was hosted by the National Society for Earthquake Technology (NSET) for an extended stay to further the development of the use-case.  “I met with NSET, risk experts, NGO’s, local government officials, and many other relevant stakeholders” said Christopher “we want the communities to own this project, and thus we are involving disaster risk reduction experts and relevant stakeholders from the region directly in the development of tools for the assessment of the social characteristics of risk within Kathmandu’s communities”.

The assessment methodology is based in part on a scorecard approach, which is a quantitative self-assessment of risk factors derived from a carefully crafted questionnaire that will be populated by relevant stakeholders within given communities. The latter is amenable to integration with building loss estimates in OpenQuake’s Integrated Risk Toolkit and will give communities the opportunity to discuss, foresee, and acknowledge factors that contribute to their risk as well as to allow them to take collective responsibility to reduce the impact of seismic events.

Christopher and his colleagues at the Center for Disaster Management and Risk Reduction Technology and the South Asia Institute are now working on synthesizing the information gathered in Kathmandu to refine the scorecard using the stakeholders’ input. The final output will be the result of an intense exchange across borders, geographies and disciplines, yet responding to the specific needs of Kathmandu’s communities.

The final scorecard will be presented at a workshop with community stakeholders in Kathmandu to make sure the scorecard is understood, to facilitate the filling out, and support its uptake at the community level.

“Through this process we look forward to the scorecard’s application, and taking it to the next level where it may be implemented in the entire Kathmandu Valley” concludes Christopher.

(1) The Kathmandu use-case is a collaborative effort between the South Asia Institute (SAI) at Heidelberg University, the Center for Disaster Management and Risk Reduction Technology (CEDIM) at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, and the National Society for Earthquake Technology (NSET) in Kathmandu.

resilience, risk, social vulnerability