After the Quake – Part 1


Its not often that you see a city take shape before your eyes.  Manila was that way, with giant skyscrapers flying up seemingly overnight.  By contrast,  Kathmandu builders took years to put up a couple of much smaller multi-story buildings in our neighbourhood. Since the earthquake, the Nepali government stopped the construction of high-rise buildings in Kathmandu.  A significant number received a yellow or red card from earthquake damage and the skills and technology needed to implode them are absent along with any conviction to uphold seismic code regulations.  What Kathmandu excels in is the construction of two and three story apartment buildings on what was used to be rice paddies.  They fly up in the blink of an eye. There’s no seismic code implementation there either, but luckily many did survive the tremors.

Many older buildings didn’t, especially in the Narayan Chaur/ Nag Pokahari area which was walking distance from our home. Before the quake, the neighborhood was a typical mixture of old and new, but it felt poised to grow, gentrify even. Recent community efforts to upgrade communal spaces with simple outdoor activities and “beautification” efforts continued long after the recent SAARC efforts to spruce up the city.  Narayan Chaur,  an oval-shaped piece of open land in Naxal, was largely a waste ground and dumping site when we first arrived in Kathmandu. With what in retrospect was surprising foresight, the community police in Naxal developed the barren land into a park and possible rescue point in times of natural calamity. The land was fenced off and a footpath laid out around the perimeter.  For a while it turned into a favourite exercise spot for early morning joggers.  Clearly, the value to the community was enormous in a city with no parks.  Its was a roaring success.

After the quake, Narayan Chaur, quickly became a tent city.  I spent about six hours there immediately after the earthquake, sheltering in one of the few, relatively safe open spaces, as the after tremors kept coming and coming. I finally left to walk home, but others are still living there now, almost three months later.

Nearby so many old buildings were destroyed. Some were ready to fall anyway, others just ramshackle from years of neglect.  I could already see that it was just a matter of time before the old buildings were demolished to be replaced by new, but the hope persisted that perhaps they would survive long enough for someone to come save them. But the earthquake took care of them in its own way, and now there’s little evidence they even existed.

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Before the quake, the ramshackle temple at Nag Pokhari  housed a school also.  Its almost dilapidated buildings showed wonderful traditional architecture and carving.

Nepal earthquake damage

Immediately after the earthquake damage whole chunks of the temple fell down. After the second quake, most of the roof collapsed

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There was no option left but to demolish it. A temporary school building is being constructed among the rubble from international humanitarian funds, which is much needed. But so much history is gone.

8 thoughts on “After the Quake – Part 1

  1. Thanks for sharing some of the detail. So sad that so much is lost when nature decides to have her way, revealing the impermanence of all. I was heartbroken seeing the damage to Christchurch 4 years after the quake there. I simply can’t imagine how it must be for the people of Nepal to face destruction and loss on such a grand scale.
    Alison

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    • Yes, its so true how everything is impermanent. But seismic code goes a long way to keeping things around longer. I do hope that this is a wake up call to the Nepali government. You can’t just have the codes, you need to implement them too. So sad, but the international community will rebuild the World Heritage sites, I’m sure.

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  2. This is a post I have wanted to see from someone. We really have so little information about the quake’s aftermath. As you may know, we visited Nepal in 2013 to build houses for Habitat for Humanity. I would so very much like to return to see what is now standing and what is gone. Thanks for these pics. Post more as you have time.

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  3. I’m just sitting here thinking about Narayan Chaur and Nag Pokhari. They all seem so vague now somehow. I was always telling the family that one day there would be a big earthquake and they should always be prepared. My advice fell on deaf ears I think and I was only person in the family who had an emergency backpack ready to grab while running outside. That pack had water, biscuits, clean clothing, soap, shampoo, toothpaste and so on. It also had the family cash and the valuable documents.

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