In Nepal, mountain infrastructure such as hydropower plants, roads, bridges and communication systems are at risk with climate change and more variability in water runoff. Photo: UNEP GRID Arendal/Lawrence Hislop
GENEVA–(ENEWSPF)–25 April 2016 – A year after a series of major earthquakes devastated large areas of Nepal, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and partners are continuing to support green and sustainable post-disaster recovery in the country.
“As the reconstruction effort continues, UNEP will promote a green, resource-efficient and sustainable reconstruction process in the country, focused on environmental recovery, restoration of life- and livelihood-supporting ecosystems, and promoting resource efficiency,” said Isabelle Louis, Regional Director and Representative, UNEP Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, in a press release.
“The aim is to ensure that the rebuilding results in enhanced environmental resilience of the people of Nepal and its ecosystems,” she added.
The 25 April 2015 earthquake and its aftershocks killed more than 8,700 people, injured more than 22,000, and destroyed and damaged more than 250,000 houses. While 8.1 million people were directly affected, millions across the mainly rural nation were exposed to increased landslides. Major life-supporting ecosystems were also severely damaged.
UNEP said that a rapid environmental assessment undertaken by the Government of Nepal following the earthquake revealed significant destruction of forests and protected areas as well as damage to ecotourism infrastructure such as nature trails, trekking routes and camping sites.
The earthquake also destroyed renewable rural energy technology solutions such as improved cooking and biogas stoves. Water sources shifted in some areas, with reduced or no flows in places, and new sources starting to flow in others.
Freshwater ecosystems were also affected by increased sedimentation and some rivers were temporarily blocked by landslides. The economic cost of loss of ecosystems services from landslides has been estimated at nearly US$328 million, according to the agency.
Following the earthquake, UNEP worked with the Government of Nepal to mitigate the adverse environmental impacts of the disaster. This included the development of a comprehensive waste management strategy at national and sub-national levels to manage the estimated 3.9 million tons of earthquake debris, which included hazardous material.
With landslides becoming three times more frequent following the earthquake, UNEP facilitated the sharing of best global practices on landslide management. Working with the Government and development partners, UNEP also identified opportunities to green the reconstruction process.
The Asia and Pacific region accounts for nearly half of the world’s natural disasters. The five biggest disasters to strike Asia Pacific in 2013 caused some US$100 billion in economic loss and killed more than 19,000 people.