Build from fear

The mere thought of an earthquake can lead to a disheveled mental frame. This is all the more so when the information communication technology has gained the upper hand in disseminating news and information at a second’s split gap from any corner of the earth. When talking of the devastations caused by an tremor and the loss of life, the 7.0 Richter scale quake that severely jolted Haiti to the grim tragic picture comes immediately to the mind. If Haiti had not seen that sheer degree of nature’s fury for a long time, the day came too soon. Seemingly, a parallel is being drawn with Nepal that has not been witness to, fortunately, an earthquake of great magnitude in recent times. Of course, the tragic temblor of 2034 (1990 B.S.) is etched in the memory of those who survived it. That year seems to be the base line for experts and others to create the needed awareness among the mass. It has been barely a month since the 12th Earthquake Day was marked in the country to commemorate the devastation caused in Nepal by the earthquake some 76 years back. The human toll and destruction of property was very high from that point of time’s computation. Since then the population of the Kathmandu Valley has multiplied astronomically almost touching the three million mark. Hence, even a quake of the magnitude of 6.0 can be devastating.

In this context, the geologists have been working overtime post-Haiti disaster. They have been speaking without mincing words that an earthquake of the magnitude of around eight, which would be about ten times more powerful than the Haiti shock, is more or less round the corner. The average time computed by the seismologists is that a region like Nepal which sits on two border plates that is continuously on the move against each other can become the perfect recipe for a shattering earthquake every 60 to 80 years. If that is to be taken into account, the time seems to have come and the risk is imminent. But, despite the warning flares sounded from time to time, the country, particularly Kathmandu seems to be ill prepared if and when the terrible jolt arrives. And, as per the studies of GeoHazards International in 2001, Kathmandu would suffer the worst because it stands on the sediments of a former lake, and the building standards are low and the infrastructure are weak. If the time gap since the last major earthquake is taken into account, according to Wilson Petley Professor of Hazard and Risk at Britain’s Durham University, the larger the time gap between quakes, the larger the quake is going to be.

Even this small compact information serves a big warning that Kathmandu stands over a powder keg that can explode any time soon. For this, preparations on the scale needed to minimise the losses are at the lowest level. Even the awareness among the people, and the preparedness level is almost non-existent. From this perspective, all out efforts have to be initiated right now on a war footing, though no one can predict the inevitability. Reason dictates that taking anything for granted especially earthquakes will always prove to be the biggest mistake that can result in thousands of deaths.

Here to stay

The home-stay concept that has been gaining in popularity abroad is now going to be introduced in Nepal. This makes economical accommodation available for visitors in private homes where they can enjoy local cuisine and culture. The Nepalese people are known the world over for their hospitality and friendliness, and this concept should be a huge success. The authorities are working on preparing the bylaws and a code of conduct to initiate this concept. The target is to have this venture in place by the Nepal Tourism Year (NTY) 2011 which has the objective to host a million tourists. The concept will first be introduced in the rural areas and then will be expanded to the urban areas.

The home-stay concept is another innovation for tourism entrepreneurs, and since the participation of the private sector will largely be responsible for its viability, it is essential that awareness be generated about this among the people. For this, special training programs are necessary to see to it that the facilities and the hospitality are as per acceptable standards. In the meantime, through the participatory approach in the tourism sector the benefits would percolate to the grassroots level.