TIME Nepal

Go Inside the Effort to Rebuild Nepal

As delegates from around the world gather in Kathmandu for an international conference on rebuilding Nepal, here's how the country's farmers are recovering from an earthquake that, two months ago, claimed thousands of lives

Two months ago, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake, centered in a mountainous region northwest of Kathmandu, devastated Nepal, shaking apart ancient temples, splitting roads, leveling homes and bridges, and setting off angry landslides and avalanches across the Himalayan nation.

The temblor, which struck shortly before noon local time on April 25, was felt in neighboring China and India, and even as far away as Pakistan. A series of panic-inducing aftershocks followed, and then, on May 12, the country was rattled by a magnitude 7.3 quake centered northeast of Kathmandu, near the country’s border with China.

In Nepal, the death toll from the two earthquakes stands at nearly 9,000, with over 22,000 people injured. (Deaths were also recorded in neighboring countries.) Hundreds of thousands of homes were destroyed or damaged. The country’s health infrastructure suffered a body blow. According to a recent government report, nearly 450 public heath facilities, including five hospitals, were completely destroyed. In what was already one of the region’s poorest countries, the earthquakes—the result of an ancient geological fault deep below Nepal—are estimated to have pushed an additional three percent of the population into poverty. That, according to the World Bank, means “as many as a million more poor people.”

As Nepal slowly rebuilds, among the most pressing challenges is supporting agriculture in a country were two-thirds of the population depends on farming. Rice is a staple food in Nepal—and for many rice-farming communities, the earthquakes “struck at the worst possible time,” according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). June is when the annual monsoon rains arrive in Nepal. And the weeks leading up to them are critical for farmers who must ensure that their rice saplings are in the ground before the rains hit. But as many half of all farming households in the country’s worst affected districts are estimated to have lost nearly all their stores of rice and other crops in the earthquakes.

The rice farmers of Samantar Village in Nepal’s Dhading district, whose struggle to plant their rice crop ahead of the monsoon is chronicled in this TIME video by Nehemiah Stark and Nick Wilson, were among those who lost their supplies in the April 25 quake. “The rice seeds in people’s houses were ruined,” Bakhat Bahadur Rai, local agricultural leader, says.“The houses fell down and the seeds became a part of the rubble.”

What followed was a race against time to secure new seeds for planting before the rains for a healthy harvest. Samantar was lucky. With the help of an Israeli NGO called Tevel b’Tzedek, the rice farmers of Samantar managed to get new supplies in early June, before the rains. Elsewhere in Nepal’s hardest hit areas, the FAO has distributed 40,000 five kilogram bags of rice seeds to farmers for the current planting season.

But much still remains to be done across Nepal, where the government puts the total cost of recovery and reconstruction at some $6.6 billion over five years. It is an enormous challenge, and one that Nepal can’t meet on its own—the estimated cost equates to roughly a third of the size of the country’s economy. To help with the effort, the government is hosting an international donors conference with delegates from the around the world, including the Indian and Chinese foreign ministers.

As the visiting delegates consider the challenges ahead, over in Samantar, attention is focused on this year’s rice crop. “I have a feeling that I will survive,” Phoolmaya Rai, a local rice farmer says, “if there’s not another earthquake.”

TIME Nepal

Heritage Sites Damaged in the Nepalese Quake Have Reopened Despite Safety Concerns

Remains of a collapsed temple are pictured at Bashantapur Durbar Square
Navesh Chitrakar—Reuters Remains of a collapsed temple at Bashantapur Durbar Square, a UNESCO world heritage site, on May 7, 2015

Tourism chief insists they "should not remain closed forever"

Several Nepalese World Heritage sites previously closed due to earthquake damage were reopened on Monday, the result of nearly two months of work stabilizing structures and removing rubble.

But some United Nations officials expressed concerns that some buildings—damaged during the April earthquake that killed more than 8,700 people—were still too unsteady, the New York Times reports.

Nepal’s tourism secretary, Suresh Man Shrestha, nonethess told the Times “The treasures of the Nepalese economy should not remain closed forever.”

More than 700 monuments in Kathmandu and its environs were damaged in the quake, and the cost of rebuilding is estimated in the tens of millions of dollars. Some of the most notable reopened monuments include the plazas and courts of Kathmandu’s Durbar Square, as well as the central squares of both the ancient city of Bhaktapur (the entirety of which is a UNESCO site) and Patan, a traditional center for handicrafts.

Christian Manhart, the head of UNESCO Kathmandu told the Times that his organization had encouraged authorities to delay the reopening because of concerns that some buildings were still unsafe or vulnerable to looting.

“At Kathmandu Durbar Square there is the huge palace museum—one very big building which is totally shaky,” he said. “The walls are disconnected from one another so this big wall can fall down at any moment.”

In response, Nepal’s Tourism Department said that museum would not reopen and that other safety measures, such as providing helmets to visitors, would mediate these concerns.

But Manhart said that even allowing tourists in proximity to unstable buildings could pose a risk. He also told the Times that Archaeology Department director general Bhesh Narayan Dahal implied to him that he was under pressure to reopen damaged monuments in order to collect entrance fees to support reconstruction efforts.

Dahal was not available for comment.

[NYT]

TIME Nepal

The Nepal Earthquakes Are Now the Nation’s Deadliest-Ever Disasters

Aftermath of Earthquake in Nepal
Anadolu Agency —Getty Images A Nepalese woman carrying her child walks past a destroyed building in Sankhu village in Kathmandu, Nepal on May 16, 2015.

More than 8,500 people have died as a result of the back-to-back earthquakes

On Sunday, Nepal’s Home Ministry confirmed at least 8,583 deaths from the past month’s two major earthquakes and subsequent tremors, making the combined disaster the deadliest in the country’s history, reports Reuters.

The last massive temblor to rock the landlocked Himalayan nation killed 8,519 people in 1934.

On April 25, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake erupted approximately 85 miles east of the capital, Kathmandu, killing more than 8,000 people and destroying a half-million homes nationwide. Three weeks later the country was struck again by a 7.3-magnitude tremor near Mount Everest that killed more than 100 people and triggered fresh landslides.

MORE: 6 Ways You Can Give to Nepal Earthquake Relief

U.N. officials report that millions of people remain in need of basic humanitarian assistance as the looming monsoon threatens to inundate the country’s fragile transportation network and hamper ongoing aid efforts.

[Reuters]

TIME portfolio

James Nachtwey’s Latest Dispatches From Nepal

TIME contract photographer James Nachtwey reports from the quake-devastated country

This is second part in a two-part series of dispatches filed by TIME contract photographer James Nachtwey from Nepal, days after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake devastated parts of the central Asian country. Read part one.

The mountains of Nepal are weeping. The restless earth shifted, and thousands of people perished. Many more thousands have been injured. Hundreds of villages have been flattened. Stone houses made by hand were literally shaken apart. But what was created by hand can be rebuilt the same way, and that is exactly what the Nepalese villagers are doing. What can never be replaced are the loved ones, many of whom are still being discovered buried beneath the rubble.

Having witnessed the destruction in Kathmandu and surrounding towns, I attempted to see what had happened in the remote mountain villages. The epicenter of the quake was located in Gorkha District, most of which was inaccessible, except by helicopter. The 301 and 206 Aviation Squadrons of the Indian Army were flying out of Pokhara, airlifting food and supplies and evacuating the injured. It was a fast paced, non-stop operation that required highly skilled pilots to land with very little clearance on small terraced fields carved into the steep mountainsides. Some flights could find no place to land. Others hovered and shoved food, blankets and tarps out of the open helicopter doors.

Photograph by James Nachtwey for TIME

One mission took us to an extremely remote Buddhist monastery deep in the snow-covered, high Himalayas to evacuate a group of young monks from their damaged dwellings.

Barpak is one of the larger villages in the district. 1,200 out of 1,475 houses were destroyed. 69 people were killed. Some are still missing. 150 were seriously injured. The inhabitants quickly began the rebuilding process. Furniture, utensils and personal possessions were slowly salvaged from the ruins, and piece-by-piece, individual stones, wooden planks and corrugated metal, were retrieved and sorted, to be used again. The people were on their own, fending for themselves, as they always had.

A rescue team discovered Pur Bahadur Gurung, 26, buried in the wreckage of a house. Only then did the natural stoicism of the people break down.

International Medical Corps flew into the village of Gumda and set up a two-day, mobile health clinic. As in Barpak, the people busied themselves with dismantling the ruins in order to rebuild. Rejina Gurung, aged 3, was found beneath a fallen roof, and alongside four others from the village who had died, was buried in a field overlooking a broad valley, far below.

The Nepalese are known for their strength and self-reliance, their equanimity, friendliness and spirituality. As their character was being tested by a natural disaster, they revealed an unshakeable resilience. It became clear that who they are has been forged in hardship and closeness to nature.

James Nachtwey is a TIME contract photographer, documenting wars, conflicts and critical social issues.

TIME Innovation

How Survivors in Nepal Are Getting Better Earthquake Aid

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

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1. When local systems failed them, survivors in Nepal lifehacked earthquake aid.

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2. Can the same brain drain that’s crippling health care in Africa be used to save it?

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3. Find out how female Marines are getting the job done.

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4. Learning to use a drill is good. Learning to run the plant is better.

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5. We might be able to starve cancer cells to death.

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The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Nepal

Rescue Efforts Resume After Second Nepal Earthquake Amid Landslide Fears

The upcoming monsoon could affect the already volatile region, experts say

Rescue operations gradually resumed in Nepal on Wednesday amid periodic aftershocks and fears of landslides, one day after a second major earthquake within three weeks rocked the Himalayan nation.

Thousands of Nepalis spent the night in the open after the fresh temblor on Tuesday afternoon, while several have still not returned home after the larger earthquake on April 25 that ripped through the country and claimed over 8,000 lives.

Tuesday’s earthquake measured 7.3 on the Richter scale against the 7.8 magnitude of the previous one, and left 65 dead and around 2,000 injured, reports the BBC. The epicenter was in Namche Bazaar, a popular town on the route to Mount Everest about 76 km from Nepal’s capital Kathmandu, but its impact was felt as far as India, where 17 people died in the eastern state of Bihar, and Tibet, where one person was killed in a landslide.

Landslides are an increasing possibility in the still volatile mountain region, and the onset of the monsoons in subsequent months only heightens the potential risk.

“It’s not safe here,” Ram Tamang, a resident of Jure village who lost his wife, mother and three children in a landslide last August, told Reuters. “Last night it was raining hard the whole night and I couldn’t sleep. I’m always worried another landslide will come.”

Hundreds of Nepali troops gathered in the country’s northeastern Charikot district, meanwhile, searching for a U.S. Marine helicopter that went missing on Tuesday while delivering aid to a local village. The UH-1Y Huey helicopter had six Marines and two Nepali soldiers on board, and was reportedly heard talking about fuel problems.

“The info we have is that it is down in one of the rivers, but none of the choppers has seen it yet,” Major Rajan Dahal, second in command of the Barda Bahadur Battalion, told Reuters. “There are 400-plus of our ground troops looking for it also,” he said, in addition to the six other helicopters conducting an aerial search. “By this evening, we might get it.”

TIME Nepal

Nepal Rocked by Massive Fresh Earthquake

The country is still coping with the aftermath of a major quake on April 25

Nepal was hit Tuesday morning by another major earthquake, this time measuring 7.3 on the Richter magnitude scale. The epicenter was located 76 km east of the capital Kathmandu, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Nepalese home ministry officials said at least 65 people were killed in the quake across three countries, CNN reports, including at least 17 in India. Another was killed in Tibet, and the Nepal Home Ministry said the total injury toll across the region is now 1,926.

The quake, which was centered near Mt Everest, was strong enough to topple yet more buildings and cause further landslides in Nepal, as well as in northern India. The impact was felt as far away as New Delhi. Areas to the northeast of Kathmandu were said to be worst hit by the strong temblor, with 31 of the country’s 75 districts affected.

The country is still recovering from a devastating quake on April 25 that claimed over 8,000 lives.

Read next: How Photographers Are Using Instagram to Help Nepal

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Soccer

Soccer Star Cristiano Ronaldo Gives Millions to Nepal Earthquake Relief

Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid looks on prior to the start the la Liga match between Athletic Club Bilbao and Real Madrid CF at San Mames Stadium in Bilbao, Spain on March 7, 2015.
Juan Manuel Serrano Arce—Getty Images Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid looks on prior to the start the La Liga match between Athletic Club Bilbao and Real Madrid at San Mames Stadium in Bilbao, Spain, on March 7, 2015

The soccer icon is well known for his acts of charity

UPDATE APPENDED

Cristiano Ronaldo is an expert at striking fear into the hearts of defenders, but off the soccer pitch he’s proved time and again that he’s one of the nicest guys in sports. And the superstar did so yet again recently, donating nearly $8 million to help global charity Save the Children carry out its earthquake-relief efforts in Nepal.

French magazine So Foot reported that Ronaldo donated €7 million (or $7.8 million) to the charity, because he wears No. 7 for his club Real Madrid and country Portugal. He also urged his 102 million Facebook followers to donate as well, according to Sports Illustrated.

Ronaldo is known for his philanthropic endeavors, having donated millions to children in Gaza as well as tsunami-relief efforts in Indonesia. He has also paid individual children’s medical bills on multiple occasions.

Nepal was devastated by a 7.8-magnitude quake on April 25 that has already claimed over 8,000 lives.

Update: Save the Children says the report that Ronaldo gave it a large donation is false. TIME has reached out to the soccer player’s agent for comment.

Read next: 6 Ways You Can Give to Nepal Earthquake Relief

TIME Nepal

The Best Way to Help Nepal Recover From the Quake? Go There on Vacation

NEPAL-EVEREST-TRAIL
Roberto Schmidt—AFP/Getty Images A trekking path, lower right, is overshadowed by high-altitude peaks including Ama Dablam, top center, in a valley leading north into Nepal's Khumbu region, which is home to Mount Everest on April 18, 2015

Tourism dollars can help save the Nepali people from undue hardship

“We are pleased to inform you that Nepal is now safe to visit,” reads an email from Adventure Mountain Explore Treks & Expedition (AME treks) sent out on Wednesday. “If you have already booked your holiday or you are planning to, we welcome you with an open heart.”

The message from the Kathmandu-based mountaineering and sightseeing organizers represents a larger plea from the small Himalayan nation, as it continues to pick itself up from the devastating April 25 earthquake that claimed over 7,000 lives thus far.

“Nepal is very safe to travel,” said AME executive director Tika Regmi. “Life is back to normal.”

The 7.9-magnitude quake laid waste to large swaths of Nepal’s capital Kathmandu (including several iconic heritage sites) and entire villages across the countryside have been flattened, but companies and officials alike insist visiting the country is now more important than ever.

The quake came during Nepal’s summer trekking season, and its aftermath and gradual recovery will undoubtedly affect this year’s peak autumn trekking expeditions beginning in September — bookings for which Regmi says are already starting to be canceled.

Despite Nepal’s peerless natural beauty — boasting eight of the 10 highest mountains in the world — and ancient temples and palaces, this landlocked nation of 30 million only receives around 600,000 visitors a year, making tourism a key potential avenue for growth.

Ganga Sagar Pant, CEO of the Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal (TAAN), says there is no reason for Nepal’s tourism — currently contributing around 10% of GDP and jobs — to grind to a halt. “The world must go on,” he said. “The tourism products are still there — mountains, flora and fauna, jungles, trails.”

Pant says TAAN is planning “assessment” expeditions to popular trekking sites like the Mount Everest circuit, the Annapurna region (which includes the 10th highest mountain in the world) and the Langtang National Park in the weeks to come, so a more concrete picture of the earthquake’s impact can be formed.

MORE: 6 Ways You Can Give to Nepal Earthquake Relief

Nepal’s government is also in the process of collecting data on loss of infrastructure and damage to heritage sites and popular trekking paths. “But there are many other areas which could be new tourism products and destinations, so our focus is on that as well,” says Mohan Krishna Sapkota, spokesperson for Nepal’s Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Civil Aviation. “Our priority is to bring more tourists and provide them quality, safety, hospitality and other services to their satisfaction,” he says, expressing a desire to re-establish Nepal as a “safe, unique and attractive tourist destination.”

All three men — Regmi, Pant and Sapkota — insist that Nepal remains safe and urge people to come visit. The benefits are especially positive if visitors reside in homestays and frequent independent restaurants and shops.

“People from around the world are willing to help in this situation,” says Pant. “One important and sustainable way to do that is to help tourism here flourish again.”

TIME Innovation

Why the Next Leader of the U.N. Should Be a Woman

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

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4. There’s an app to document and salvage Nepal’s cultural heritage.

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5. Elon Musk just made growing weed easier.

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The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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