Since the April 2015 Gorkha Earthquake, the densely populated city of Kathmandu, Nepal has been in a state of repair. The Kathmandu Valley has many unreinforced masonry structures, many of which were severely damaged during the Gorkha Earthquake. Nepalese engineers are actively seeking practical solutions to improve Nepal’s seismic resilience. With funding provided by USAID and the Evans Fellowship, Professor Ben Mason and graduate student Rachel Adams were able to attend several trips to Nepal. Dr. Mason visited Kathmandu shortly after the Gorkha Earthquake for post-disaster reconnaissance. After his initial trips, Dr. Mason worked with a group from the U.S. to formulate workshops and training sessions focused around earthquake engineering. Rachel attended two trips in 2016 along with Dr. Mason and the team from the U.S. consisting of professors and members of the United States Geologic Survey (USGS).
During the one-year anniversary conference of the Gorkha Earthquake, experts from around the world came to Nepal to present their work since the earthquake. At the conference, our group was able to learn what progress had been made in Nepal, and what the country still needed to recover and rebuild their infrastructure to better resist seismic events. We were also able to meet with Nepalese engineers and professors at Tribhuvan University to develop a comprehensive list of topics desired with a focus on earthquake engineering. By working with leaders of the National Society for Earthquake Technology in Nepal (NSET), we were able to organize a week long earthquake engineering workshop for Nepalese engineers that contained topics within structural engineering, geotechnical engineering, and seismology.
The earthquake engineering workshop was a very successful event that piqued the interest of Nepalese engineers. Following the completion of the workshop, more topics for subsequent workshops were requested and a collaborative relationship has been established for future work. The travel experience was also very valuable to the visitors from the U.S. The Nepalese have proved to be extraordinarily resilient following the Gorkha Earthquake. We can learn much from their efforts and spirit. The trip was also scientifically valuable as Nepal has many similarities in landscape and seismic hazard as the Pacific Northwest. We too are faced with an impending earthquake from a subduction zone fault boundary. We too live in a pronounced valley with extensive surrounding hillslopes prone to landslides. It has been a great opportunity to establish an international collaborative project which will help engineers develop creative solutions to face natural hazards.
We are very thankful for our colleague, Diwakar Khadka (Nepalese geotechnical engineer), for his perspective and time committed in showing our team sites of great importance around the Kathmandu Valley.