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 and Save!

geo line break v3

Free eBooks - Geographical Newsletter

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

geo line break v3

University of Winchester

geo line break v3

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth University University of Greenwich The University of Derby

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

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...

Geophoto

Winning entries include meerkats, zebra sharks and courting nudibranches

Oceans

The UN’s World Ocean Day is a day to celebrate…

Nature

Breathe easier this World Environment day with this collection of…

Climate

A 50-year look at the activity of aphids, moths, butterflies…

Geophoto

The British Isles are packed with natural landmarks that serve…

Geophoto

The prestigious photography awards to go on display in some…

Tectonics

The discovery of a slow-motion earthquake near Istanbul, which took…

Oceans

The 2014 to 2016 marine heatwave, which took place off…

Climate

Marco Magrini discovers that hydrogen is back, but hopefully not…

Wildlife

 A ten-year analysis of chimpanzees has revealed that the presence…

Wildlife

The return of the pine marten to UK forests has…

Energy

A project in Orkney is converting excess wind energy into…

Geophoto

Mountains provide a dramatic sight at the best of times,…

Wildlife

A surge in reports of dead hares has resulted in…

Oceans

Four scientists have banded together to make the case against the farming of octopuses, arguing…

Climate

As planetary oil consumption hits the 100-million-barrel mark Marco Magrini…

Oceans

A ship that ran aground early in February has been…

Wildlife

Two whale populations on either side of the African continent…

Geophoto

March traditionally heralds the beginning of spring, a time of…

Wildlife

An innovative project to utilise Laos’ elephant experts in service…