Key Takeaways

A natural disaster can lead to greater human calamity when the affected population is vulnerable, not having enough resilience or infrastructure to mitigate disaster risks. This has been the Asia-Pacific region’s history and experience with nature’s wrath.

Therefore, when a disaster strikes, the community response must be swift, compassionate, comprehensive, and well-organized to avoid a big loss of property and human life.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) worked with Nepal following the 7.8 magnitude earthquake on 25 April 2015 and the devastating aftershock on 12 May 2015 that cost 9,000 lives and destroyed thousands of structures in Kathmandu and nearby towns.

The Earthquake Emergency Assistance Project (EAAP) initially provided $3 million in quick-disbursing grant to help save lives during the disaster relief period. Within nine weeks, ADB provided a $200 million emergency loan and $3.4 million technical assistance to begin urgent reconstruction and accelerate Nepal’s recovery.   The EAAP aimed to resume basic services by rebuilding damaged schools, roads, and district-level government buildings to be more resilient to future disasters.

  ADB leveraged its financing resources through partnerships with other donors. Final amounts disbursed after the project ended in 2020 were $165 million in ADB emergency loans, $9.2 million cofinancing from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), $2.8 million technical assistance from various ADB grant windows, and $600,000 from the People’s Republic of China Poverty Reduction and Regional Cooperation Fund. The Nepal government also contributed $37.7 million, while $4.4 million for project preparation and construction supervision of district roads was supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

From its involvement in past disasters and conflicts, ADB has learned many lessons which underpin its disaster management policy and are systematically incorporated into disaster-related operations.

One of the school buildings devastated by the earthquakes.
One of the school buildings devastated by the earthquakes. Photo: ADB

First, it emphasized closer coordination, for example, not only with national implementing agencies but with other development partners during rescue, relief, early recovery, and post-disaster assessment efforts. All partners and donors had to use a common platform for planning and implementing reconstruction programs to avoid inefficient, overlapping deployment of resources.

In line with aid coordination principles in the 2005 Paris Declaration, ADB was assigned to lead sectoral assessments in education (with the United Nations Children’s Fund as co-leader) as well as irrigation, transport, and macroeconomic impact assessments (together with the World Bank). ADB earned leadership roles in recognition of its long-term involvement in these sectors. The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) supported the rebuilding of 227 schools in six western districts through a parallel project. Effective coordination between JICA and ADB during project preparation helped rationalize the geographical coverage of their respective school reconstruction activities, contributing to timely project completion for both. Regular consultation meetings also provided an opportunity to share lessons and best practices such as for disaster-resilient school building design. ADB worked closely, too, with development partners USAID and SDC.

The ADB project was able to rebuild 154 school buildings—consisting of 53 higher secondary, 60 secondary, 32 primary and nine model schools—to disaster-resilient standards. Water and sanitation facilities and sex-disaggregated toilets were included.

Second, in line with the goal to “build back better,” the school learning spaces were improved, and differently-abled students given easier access to facilities. Solar panels provided back-up electricity supply and the model schools were equipped with science laboratories, information technology equipment, and hostel facilities. Construction of schools located in remote areas used locally available materials like mud and stones, reducing cost and construction period.

Third, a total of 301 kilometers of district roads were rehabilitated and reconstructed incorporating build-back-better features for road safety and climate change adaptation. From the existing single lane width, the roads were built to higher standards of medium to double lane width. New retaining and cross-drainage structures were included while bioengineering technology was used for slope stabilization. Road reconstruction was critical to restoring the livelihoods of nearby affected populations.

A total of 57 severely damaged buildings in different districts were reconstructed while 61 slightly damaged buildings were repaired. The project also constructed transitional district offices which enabled the resumption of key government services while rehabilitation was ongoing.

And fourth, in order to improve disaster preparedness and management, the engineering divisions of all implementing agencies were strengthened by providing capacity development training on earthquake resilient building design and construction technique. About 600 staff of local implementing agencies were trained in intermediate disaster risk reduction, exceeding the target by 100 participants. Using web-based monitoring and information systems, the project conducted proper quality assurance checks across all new designs and civil works.

Reconstructed school building through the ADB project.
Reconstructed school building through the ADB project. Photo: ADB

From its involvement in past disasters and conflicts, ADB has learned many lessons which underpin its disaster management policy and are systematically incorporated into disaster-related operations.

The project also facilitated a revision of the country’s National Building Code-105 to improve structural design norms for seismic resistance. The updated Building Code will have far-reaching effects by raising the required seismic resistance levels across all the country’s buildings.

The reconstruction of 20% of earthquake-damaged roads in Nepal was almost completed. The target for restoring school enrollment rates to pre-earthquake levels was exceeded with a 9% increase in the overall enrollment rate to 60,422 students as of 31 December 2019.

Through careful selection of high-priority reconstruction subprojects,   the ADB-led project accelerated social and economic recovery in affected districts and the resumption of critical economic and social services with disaster-resilient infrastructure. The rebuilt schools in eight districts contributed to social development by providing a safe and improved learning environment. The rehabilitation of roads not only restored but improved road connectivity in 12 districts, delivering a positive impact on agriculture production and the quality of life of communities benefiting from the roads.

The rebuilt government facilities restored essential service delivery in 11 district headquarters with safe and improved working conditions. The adoption of technical approaches for disaster risk reduction for buildings has set a standard for designing and constructing safer public buildings. Furthermore, the revision of the National Building Code-105 will reduce the risk of loss of life and damage to public and private buildings in case of future earthquakes.