NEPAL’S SCHOOL EARTHQUAKE SAFETY PROGRAM: PAST ACCOMPLISHMENTS, FUTURE CHALLENGES
NSET’s and GHI’s approach was for NSET engineers to train local masons in the methods of earthquake-resistant construction by seismically retrofitting their village’s local school. The goal: create the supply of masons to provide seismic-resistant construction and the demand among the villagers for such construction.
Since 1997 about 300 school buildings have been retrofit by NSET, other NGOs, and Nepal’s Department of Education. About 90% were in areas affected by the Gorkha earthquake; all 300 survived without significant damage, while about 80% of unretrofit school buildings collapsed or were seriously damaged.
The impact extended beyond schools. In some villages where NSET retrofitted schools and trained masons, earthquake-resistant construction features have “percolated” into about 4/5ths of the villages’ new buildings, because owners voluntarily incorporated these features into new construction. Thus, both the local school and the village overall were seismically-strengthened. In view of this success, the Department of Education launched its own School Earthquake Safety Program in 2010.
Nepal plans to respond to the Gorkha earthquake by immediately constructing Temporary Learning Centers (to get through the monsoon season), followed by more substantial Transitional School Buildings, and then to undertake, over the next 5 years, the repair of the 6000 collapsed schools.
This will be a challenge. The cost would be about $400 million. Schools were retrofit over the past 15 years at a rate of 15/year, and more recently at about 150/year. Repairing the 6000 collapsed schools in 5 years will require a rate of 1200/year.