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Monday, 02 May 2016 05:00

Nepal and Risk Management Lessons

Written by  Vicki Thomas

NepalOn April 25, 2015 a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Kathmandu, Nepal and surrounding communities. More than 8,000 people were killed. Over 120 aftershocks followed this initial earthquake.

On May 12, 2015 a 7.3 magnitude earthquake hit eastern Nepal close to Mount Everest. Over 100 people were killed and thousands more were injured.

Homes, temples, monuments, livelihoods were lost and destroyed. Every aspect of life has been impacted including the basics such as access to clean water, schooling, employment and the tourism industry, which the country so desperately relies on has been practically halted.

Sadly, but not surprisingly one year later, not much has changed in Nepal. People are still left homeless, living in shacks. The promised rebuilding hasn’t begun. People still lack access to the basics of life.

Unfortunately, this lack of progress is not really a surprise. Look back at any of the recent natural disasters and the state of the impacted communities: Haiti, New Orleans, Thailand, Japan. It’s very easy to find stories about the slow pace of rebuilding and the many unknowns facing the disenfranchised.

Consider this stark reality of the Nepal disaster relief and rebuilding process:

“The disaster struck a year ago today, but in that time not a single home has been rebuilt with the help of the Nepalese government  – despite billions of dollars pledged by the international community.

Tens of thousands of Nepalis are now facing a second monsoon season >living in temporary shelter, while $4.1 billion (£2.9 billion) pledged by donors including the United States, the European Union and the World Bank lies almost totally untouched.” (Nepal earthquake anniversary: one year on, not one home rebuilt by government)

As a business continuity professional, how should you be reacting to this? Does this make you think about your organization and it’s resiliency and risk management? Do you feel frustration with the inability of people to react, respond and act purposefully when disaster strikes?

Disaster relief and recovery is so often considered an afterthought. The ideas that “this won’t happen here” or “it won’t happen again” are ones that serve only to result in inaction.

We know that for the longevity and success of business and community, there needs to be plans, decision-makers, leaders and action. But what about the consequences when the risk management, business continuity and disaster recovery plans aren’t followed or worse, are ignored?

Think of the processes you have in place for when a disaster, threat or interruption occurs in your organization. When have these processes broken down or proven to be ineffective? In Nepal, we see this in full force when it comes to the rebuilding process of both homes and monuments:

But reconstruction could be where the real risk lies, warn the experts, who say unskilled craftsmen could bury the delicate beauty of the brickwork under concrete reinforcements.

“The government has to go through a bidding process, and the lowest bidder always wins,” said Rohit Ranjitkar, director of the Kathmandu Valley Preservation Trust. 

“That might not be the right person with the right experience. Everybody knows that.” (Nepal earthquake anniversary: one year on, not one home rebuilt by government)

The real message here is: what can we learn from the experiences of others? How can we take their successes and failures and use these as templates and talking points to better improve our risk management and resiliency?

To read more about Nepal:

To read about risk management and disaster: