All in all

A major earthquake hits Nepal every 70-75 years. The last one measuring eight in Richter scale struck the country in 1934. In the event of a temblor of a similar scale, the National Society for Earthquake Technology estimates, 75 per cent of all houses in Bhaktapur and 60 per cent of all houses in the Kathmandu Valley will be reduced to rubble. As many as 40,000 people are expected to lose their lives. Making the matters worse, the capital will come to a standstill if electricity, telephone and water lines snap and the bridges along the major roads collapse. And there will hardly be enough ambulances to ferry the wounded and fire brigades to douse the fires that might flare up in the aftermath. Moreover, the handful of hospitals will overflow with the wounded.

Preparedness is the key to manage a disaster of such a big magnitude. For one, no new house should be sanctioned unless it clears appropriate standards. Similarly, very old houses should be demolished and critical infrastructure like the bridges made quake-resistant. Equally important is to have in place a contingency plan to coordinate post-disaster activites. On the face of such a monumental task, accurate prediction of the quakes assumes an even greater importance. The government needs to invest more into the ongoing research studying the behaviour of the snakes prior to an earthquake. Likewise, awareness campaigns aimed at teaching people the safeguard mechanisms are equally vital. All in all, only a concerted effort on the part of the government, the NGOs working on the field and the general public will help avert a big humanitarian disaster.