Reducing disaster risk to life and livelihoods by evaluating the seismic safety of Kathmandu’s historic urban infrastructure: enabling an interdisciplinary pilot

by R. A. E. Coningham et al

06 Aug 2019
Journal of the British Academy
Number of pages
38 (pp. 45-82)

Pages in this section

Abstract: Kathmandu’s cities are exceptional architectural and artistic achievements, underpinned by centuries of seismic adaptation. They represent portals where heavens touch the earth and individuals commune with guiding deities; their tangible and intangible values promoting community cohesion. Kathmandu’s skyline was dramatically altered by the 2015 Gorkha Earthquake as almost 9,000 people died. Hundreds of monuments were damaged or collapsed, resulting in the cancelling of 32 per cent of tourist visits, a major GDP source. Following ODA pledges of US$2.5 billion, Nepal’s Government approved the rehabilitation of many but there are tensions between interpretations of Sendai’s ‘Build Back Better’ framework and the preservation of the authenticity of Kathmandu’s UNESCO World Heritage Site. Our interdisciplinary North–South partnership piloted the integration of archaeology and geoarchaeology with 3D visualisation, geotechnical and structural engineering to co-produce methodologies to evaluate and improve the seismic safety of historic urban infrastructure, reducing direct risk to life and livelihoods, while respecting and preserving authenticity and traditions and, in some cases, revitalising them.

Keywords: Nepal, Kathmandu Valley, UNESCO World Heritage Site, earthquake, historic infrastructure, urban infrastructure, risk, seismic adaptation.

Article posted to Journal of the British Academy, volume 7, supplementary issue 2 (Cities and Infrastructure in the Global South).

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