Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Major Earthquake Hits Nepal

On Saturday, a massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal, a country already plagued by poverty and political instability. Thousands have already died from the quake, and the subsequent aftershocks and avalanches, including one that several hit Mount Everest base camp. The total death toll is still very uncertain as there are many remote villages that are difficult to reach even in normal circumstances.

This tragedy is unfortunately unlikely far from over. There are significant concerns over the availability of drinking water and the possibility of the spread of certain diseases. Additionally, the country will need to rebuild infrastructure and its economy. The Nepalese economy is very dependent on tourism, which will take a hit, at least in the short-term. Coca-Cola is one of only a few multinational corporations that has operations in Nepal. They have suspend operations temporarily, despite their factories remaining intact, and are attempting to distribute clean water. Many countries have pledged aid to Nepal including the US with $10 million. There are some economist that say that disasters can allow developing countries to rebuild stronger after a disaster, overall increasing the economy. Many others, looking at the data and examples, argue that disasters the gains from aid are all lost by the huge destruction and lack of political stability.

What do you think the correct approach of the international community should be to this type of tragedy? Who should be involved in the relief effort (NGOs, the local government, neighboring governments, the UN, multinational corporations)? Do you thin this horrific tragedy will have a silver lining of increased economic productivity or will political instability and the losses cause continued struggle?

Basic information on the earthquake
Economic impact of Nepal Earthquake


Eddie Huang said...

The earthquake in Nepal, already among one of Asia's poorest nations, ( will take a huge toll on not only its economy but the many civilians and foreign travelers and all their families. My heart goes out to everyone who has had the unfortunate luck to have been affected by this tragedy.

The international community, in response to this tragedy, ultimately made the right decision to engage in humanitarian aid to the citizens of Nepal, not only because it is the right thing to do to help those unfortunate enough to have found themselves caught in this tragedy, but also because many of their own citizens were caught in the earthquake. The more aid, the better, and contributions from whatever level of government (or organization) all add up to a better recovery.

Given the impoverished state of the country, just getting the current infrastructure back into its previous state will require significant resources, and though GDP may grow as a result, the increase is not due to improvements in the state of the country but the resources needed to bring it back to its normal state. Despite higher GDP, the damage to local businesses and the necessity to restore instead of grow will ultimately cause lost economic progress as a result of the earthquake.

Anonymous said...

I agree that a group of governments, NGOs, and IGOs is appropriate to remedy this situation. But there is another factor -- cosumers. I found this Time article ( to make an interesting point about how if an average person wants to help out, an excellent way might be just to go to Nepal. Tourism generates economic activity that the country really needs in order to recover from this environmental and economic catastrophe. Of course, it is hard to convince people to go there at this moment, but the Time article seems to make it seem as though it is pretty safe to travel to. So I guess I would respond to your question, Katie, by saying that consumers and tourists can help out in their own unique way (and plus, it is an amazing country to trek in -- my dad went when he was young and loved it).

I think that's a really interesting point about the catastrophe forcing the country to rebuild, a net positive. I'm not sure I can really speak to the economic effects, but given that one of the issues was that buildings in Nepal were not in the least bit earthquake-safe, this earthquake will force them to finally increase the safety of their houses, which, according to this National Geographic article (, can be done quite cheaply. Retrofitting the buildings could really help, as Nepal is situated between 2 tectonic plates, so another earthquake should be expected at some point.

Catherine van Blommestein said...

The earthquake in Nepal is tragic, just as it was in Haiti. Haiti still continues to rebuild, but the main contributors to Haiti’s reconstruction were through private donations and enterprises. Hollywood actors and celebrities went to Haiti to bring awareness, which helped bring recognition and donations. I hope that Nepal will get the attention of mass media in bringing forth global efforts and contributions to help rebuild the region.

I am not sure whether there will be a silver lining to Nepal’s economic productivity due to the fact that they rely so much tourism to support their economy and not production of goods. Much of the tourism has to do with the natural beauty of the area, so this damage will affect their economy. I do not think they want to industrialize and lose even more of this attraction.