Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

Geo Briefing: Nepal earthquake

Destroyed buildings in Kathmandu, Nepal Destroyed buildings in Kathmandu, Nepal Krish Dulal
28 Apr
2015
Over the weekend, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit Nepal. But what are the factors which made the country, and the city of Kathmandu, so susceptible to such a disaster?

EARTHQUAKES

shakemap
ShakeMap of Nepal (Image: USGS)

The earthquake epicentre, 80km to the northwest of Kathmandu, caused ‘very strong’ shaking, bordering on ‘severe’, around Kathmandu. The shock waves also reached as far north as the northern border, resulting in the avalanche on Mount Everest which killed and injured many on the mountain.

aftershocksThe earthquake triggered multiple aftershocks, occurring across the affected region (Image: USGS)

TOPOGRAPHY

topographyTopography of Nepal (Image: Wikimedia)
Squeezed between India and Tibet in the midst of the Himalayan mountain range, Nepal is a highly mountainous and tectonically active country. It contains eight of the world’s ten highest mountains, including Mount Everest and Kanchenjunga, respectively the tallest and third tallest mountain peaks in the world. From a broadly low-lying south-and-southeastern border with India – a flat river plain which feeds into the mighty Ganges – the terrain becomes rapidly more rugged as you head north. Consequently, there are multiple areas of land over 5,000m above sea level around the northern border.

POPULATION

population-mapRegional population density of Nepal, 2011 (Image: IMU/RCHCO)
Most of Nepal’s 31 million people live in the rural lowlands, in the 15 per cent of the country which is suitable for farming. The major exception are the 1.5 million living in the capital Kathmandu, which sits around the centre of the country, at an average of 1,400m above sea level. Rapid migration to Kathmandu has created a population density averaging over 13,000 people per sq km, one of the highest in the world.

POVERTY

povertyNepal severity of poverty, 2011(Image: World Bank and Central Bureau of Statistics, Nepal)
Poverty rates are falling in Nepal, however the UN estimates that over a quarter of Nepalis still live below the poverty line. In Kathmandu, this, combined with the high population density, has led to thousands of people in the city living in poor quality housing, making it one of the most dangerous threats to human life.

 For a timeline of Nepal’s history with earthquakes, click here.

Related items

Subscribe to Geographical!

Geographical Week

Sign up for our weekly newsletter today and get a FREE eBook collection!

University of Winchester

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth University University of Greenwich The University of Derby

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

DOSSIERS

Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • The Human Game – Tackling football’s ‘slave trade’
    Few would argue with football’s position as the world’s number one sport. But as Mark Rowe discovers, this global popularity is masking a sinister...
    Essential oil?
    Palm oil is omnipresent in global consumption. But in many circles it is considered the scourge of the natural world, for the deforestation and habita...
    National Clean Air Day
    For National Clean Air Day, Geographical brings together stories about air pollution and the kind of solutions needed to tackle it ...
    REDD+ or Dead?
    The UN-backed REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) scheme, under which developing nations would be paid not to cut dow...
    Diabetes: The World at Risk
    Diabetes is often thought of as a ‘western’ problem, one linked to the developed world’s overindulgence in fatty foods and chronic lack of physi...

MORE DOSSIERS

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in NATURE...

Energy

The Treasury has announced that it is considering imposing a…

Tectonics

Major earthquakes are triggering seismic activity half the world away

Climate

Marco Magrini finds that a warming world also means a…

Wildlife

Unchecked tourism is potentially reducing the number of cheetah cubs that…

Oceans

A relocated military base in Okinawa, Japan will cause ‘irreversible’…

Climate

The ongoing recovery of the planet’s ozone layer is being…

Oceans

The Ocean Cleanup has launched System 001, a floating barrier…

Nature

New videos reveal how plants respond to wounds, sending forth…

Geophoto

The recent heatwave had everyone longing for a drop of…

Wildlife

The demand for horseshoe crab blood – vital for testing…

Climate

One of the problems in getting accurate climate science out…

Wildlife

Italy is divided over the future of its wolves and…

Energy

A Scottish tidal power project in the Pentland Firth has…

Oceans

The world’s first full global analysis of beaches reveals the…

Geophoto

With the recent Saddleworth Moor fire, it can be easy…

Wildlife

Whale sharks have been found to not travel far from…

Wildlife

The Lone Star tick is spreading across North America, carrying…

Tectonics

Earlier this week, Indonesia was struck by a series of…

Energy

Efforts to reduce the energy drain of the internet are…

Energy

Coal’s rising popularity among climate-apathetic leaders is a worrying trend,…