ICIMOD wins Humanitarian GIS Award for its role in Nepal earthquake disaster response

KATHMANDU: The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) has bagged the Humanitarian GIS Award in recognition of its disaster response efforts of the Nepal government in the the aftermath of the devastating April 25 earthquake in Nepal.

The award was handed over to ICIMOD at the 2015 International User Conference of the Environmental System Research Institute (Esri) in San Diego, California on Monday.

“ICIMOD’s resolve and tireless efforts in the face of such devastation truly inspire us,” said Jack Dangermond, the Esri president. “Their work has already had huge impact and they continue to drive relief and recovery efforts in Nepal.”

The official death toll of the April 25 earthquake, which was of local magnitude 7.6, and its aftershocks is close to 9,000. More than 23,000 people were injured and at leasaat 785,000 buildings damaged or destroyed, displacing about 2.8 million people in the natural disaster.

Given the huge demand for information from various quarters following the earthquake, ICIMOD immediately fielded special Task Forces on Geo-hazards and Geo-information to process and analyse satellite data to inform relief and recovery operations. Over the weeks, in close collaboration with the Ministry of Home Affairs and with technical support from Environmental System Research Institute (Esri), ICIMOD developed and deployed the ‘Nepal Earthquake 2015: Disaster Relief and Recovery Information Platform’ (NDRRIP).

The Platform was formally integrated by MoHA as part of its Disaster Risk Reduction Portal. The Platform acts as a unified information hub for use by regional and global partners including space agencies, UN organisations, donor agencies, academic and research organisations, relief organisations, local NGOs, private sector organisations, and civil society.

The Platform includes snapshots of key facts and figures at national, district, village development committee (VDC), municipality, and ward levels with interactive maps, charts, and infographics. The platform also features information on geo-hazards, including field data on landslides with 3D visualisation and a near real-time incident reporting system. The Platform provides an overall information architecture to populate data and information from different geographic regions and thematic areas as they become available.

Among others, ICIMOD identified over 3,000 landslides and assembled a database of over 250 landslides and other large mass movements; conducted a special geo-hazards assessment of the Langtang Valley; examined the condition of Nepal’s most dangerous glacial lakes and provided an update of priority lakes; and assisted helicopter pilots flying rescue and relief sorties by providing crucial flight information to help them navigate unfamiliar terrain, identify destinations, map potential flight paths, and plan appropriate landing sites using satellite remote sensing and GIS data information.

“The need of the hour was the delivery of timely, credible, and actionable data and information to support relief and recovery operations,” said Basanta Shrestha, ICIMOD’s Director of Strategic Cooperation, who led the disaster response and received the Award on ICIMOD’s behalf.

“Our foremost intervention was to support the Government in coordinating disaster response efforts so that it could efficiently deploy resources to the affected communities; and the Platform we developed is seen as a single-window gateway for information resources to support reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts.”

ICIMOD Director General Dr David Molden said the Award not only recognises the work of ICIMOD, but also that of several partners around the world who supported ICIMOD in its response to the Government of Nepal.

“We would like to thank all our partners who worked with us following the devastating earthquake,” he said. “We also thank our regional member countries, our donors, our project partners and the people of the communities where we have our pilots and projects, and particularly, the Government of Nepal for the opportunity to serve its people.”