Epic change & upheaval - Looking back: Events that shaped the year

5. Nepal quake a severe blow to its economy

Workers reinforcing the roof of a temple in historical Durbar Square, in Nepal, which had collapsed, following an earthquake in April.
Workers reinforcing the roof of a temple in historical Durbar Square, in Nepal, which had collapsed, following an earthquake in April.ST FILE PHOTO

2015 was a year of tragedies, disasters and terror. Some, like the quake in Nepal, were over almost instantly while others, like the European migrant crisis and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, were dramas that unfolded daily. But there were also uplifting moments, such as the Myanmar general election and the Paris climate deal.

On April 25, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked Nepal, killing 8,617 people and destroying up to 700,000 homes and 8,000 schools.

An avalanche that roared through the middle of Everest base camp killed two dozen people.

Hundreds of climbers were stranded on the mountain.

Still, Nepal could count itself lucky - the quake hit on a Saturday morning when schools were closed and many people were out in the streets or fields.

The capital city, Kathmandu, was spared major damage, but the rural districts of Gorkha and Sindhupalchowk were devastated.

Yet, despite the knowledge that a major earthquake was due, the country was ill-prepared.

Nepal's chronic underdevelopment, exacerbated by a decade-long civil war from 1996, and subsequent political wrangling, aggravated the dire situation.

International aid poured in, including from the global Nepali diaspora.

But for weeks after the quake, relief and rehabilitation efforts were hampered by the lack of infrastructure.

Political squabbles also delayed a Bill for the formation of a Reconstruction Authority for months. It was passed only this month. 

Making matters worse was Nepal's new Constitution, promulgated in September, which is seen as biased against the Madhesis - people of Indian origin living in the plains, as opposed to ethnic Nepalis of the mountain districts.

Pressure from India - in the form of an unofficial blockade on goods - to accommodate the demands of the Madhesis has left ties in tatters, squandering the goodwill of India's muscular response to the quake disaster.

It also has hamstrung ongoing aid efforts, prolonging the humanitarian disaster.

Nirmal Ghosh

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 20, 2015, with the headline 'Nepal quake a severe blow to its economy'. Print Edition | Subscribe