Disaster Preparedness in Nepal: A Walk in the Park?

Shahid Smitri Park will provide enjoyment for Baglung residents year-round, while serving as an essential open space following natural disasters. Photo: IOM 

Kathmandu – In mountainous Nepal, where a fast-expanding population is making towns in the valleys ever more crowded, finding a flat open space to provide a refuge for the population in the event of a disaster like the 2015 earthquake is not always easy.

Nepal’s disaster risk reduction planners recognized the need to identify and protect accessible open spaces to save lives in the country’s 2018 National Policy for Disaster Risk Reduction. Their solution? To create and protect more urban parks that double as open spaces and that Nepalis and visitors can enjoy the year round.

“Open spaces are essential for saving lives through coordinated humanitarian response in an event of a disaster. But they are also essential for leisure activities and cultural events. By protecting and beautifying the Shahid Smriti Park, we are raising awareness about the use of open spaces, but also contributing to people’s mental and physical health in Baglung municipality,” says the municipality’s Senior Planning and Administrative Officer, Yukta Syubedi.

Baglung, situated in mountainous Western Nepal, 275 km west of Kathmandu, has a population of about 58,000 and is highly vulnerable to hazards like earthquakes and landslides. Since 2016 the municipality has been working with IOM to identify, map and protect five open spaces that could be used for humanitarian purposes in an event of a disaster.

The spaces include Dhaulagiri Multiple Campus, Bal Uddhan, Bal Mandir Bangechaur and Shahid Smriti Park and Birendra Aishwarya Park. They cover an area of 90,000 square meters and can accommodate up to nearly 15,000 people in nearly 52,000 useable square meters. The municipality has banned all construction on the sites without special approval. It is also collaborating with a private sector partner – Prabhu Bank – to develop a master plan to preserve and protect picturesque Shahid Smriti Park.

But protecting open spaces in Nepal remains a challenge. Some of 83 spaces identified inside the Kathmandu Valley by IOM after the 2015 earthquake under the supervision of the Ministry of Home Affairs and protected through a gazette notification by the government, are already seeing encroachment.

The key to protecting them is close collaboration between local government, communities, the private sector and humanitarian actors, according to IOM Nepal Chief of Mission Paul Norton. “We all need to work hand in hand to be fully prepared for future disasters,” he said.

IOM Nepal has been working with the Government of Nepal on disaster preparedness since 2011. With financial support from USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), it has helped five local governments in Baglung, Pokhara Metropolitan City, Resunga, Putali Bazar and Tansen to identify 40 open spaces to be used for humanitarian purposes.  In total, 123 open spaces have been identified in Kathmandu Valley and Western Region municipalities, which can accommodate some 1.21 million people in the event of a disaster.

For more information please contact Paul Norton at IOM Nepal, Email:, Tel: +977 1 4426250 (Ext. 194).