The Kathmandu Valley, home to 2.5 million people and seven World Heritage sites, was devastated by the April 2015 earthquake and its aftershocks. Nearly 9,000 people were killed, hundreds of thousands of homes destroyed, and many historic and religious sites flattened.
In the months following the devastation, Nepal adopted a new constitution and formed a new government, but found itself in a dispute over the representation of an ethnic group on the Indian border, the Madhesis. The agitation in the Terai region and India’s alleged tacit support of an economic blockade that began in September severely curtailed the flow of fuel, cooking gas, and essential supplies into Nepal, reversing the small gains made after the earthquake and plunging the country into an economic and political crisis.
Devotees conduct a puja at the remains of the Char Narayan temple in Patan Durbar Square in the Kathmandu Valley. The 17th century temple, sacred to Vishnu and one of the oldest at the World Heritage site, was destroyed in last April’s earthquake.
Kathmandu Durbar Square was the worst hit of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Kathmandu Valley. Though work on reconstruction has been rather slow, some debris have been removed and tourists have started to return.
A common sight in the Valley: Heavy wood beams support buildings in Patan (left) and Bhaktapur (right).
Baikuntha Manandhar (in white), a four-time Olympian and gold-medal winning athlete at the South Asian Games, prepares for the Marathon for Peace to raise awareness for women’s and children’s justice and to show that Nepal is safe for tourists. According to UNICEF, human traffickers targeted desperately poor families and forced them to give up their children after the earthquake. Manandhar and a small group of runners began among the damaged temples at Bhaktapur Durbar Square and continued to Kathmandu and Patan.
With his friends and family, Bikram Gosai founded an NGO called Unite for Change to help needy people in the Kathmandu Valley. After the earthquake, he raised funds and organised volunteers as the work took on greater urgency. Gosai studied business management and runs his family’s tailoring business in Bhaktapur. On evenings and weekends, he and his friends prepare food and distribute blankets and clothes to earthquake victims. “We didn’t want to waste our leisure time,” he said. “We wanted to help the country, not with big things but something small and helpful.”
Workers continue the demolition of damaged home in Patan.
Activists participate in a march to Parliament to protest the government’s lack of progress on earthquake rehabilitation and the political dispute with the ethnic Madhesi people along the border with India. When a new constitution was adopted in September, promising proportional representation for Nepal’s many ethnic groups under a federal structure, the Madhesis felt short-changed. Protests and violence in the border region prevented Indian trucks from entering Nepal, resulting in a grave shortage of fuel, cooking gas, and essential supplies. The blockade has allegedly had tacit support from the Indian government. It was lifted only on February 5.
When the fuel crisis hit Kathmandu, passengers were forced to ride on the roofs of crowded buses. But the police started to issue fines to stop the practice.
With plastic containers strung on a line, Kathmandu residents wait for the government to distribute kerosene.
With cooking gas and kerosene in short supply, the Nepali government sold firewood at Rs 20/kg. But burning wood exacerbated Kathmandu’s already dangerously high levels of air pollution.
Managed by UNICEF, the Chuchepati tent camp houses 3,500 internally displaced persons in Kathmandu. Though the numbers have been falling as people transition to more permanent homes, aid workers are saw a reversal in the trend as firewood replaced cooking gas owing to the blockade. Residents in rented apartments could not cook with firewood in their kitchens and so returned to the tent camps.
After Dilbahadur Khadki’s three-story house in Dharmasthali, a small town outside Kathmandu, was reduced to rubble by t¬he earthquake, he was given sheets of corrugated tin to build a new structure. Small disbursements from sources like the Red Cross have allowed him to buy rice, but there has been no distribution of aid money from the Nepali government for reconstruction.
Before the earthquake, Ashish Gurung lived with his parents in a rented brick house, where they ran a church and a orphanage. Today, they feel much safer, sleeping on the floor of the tin-sided church they have built in Kavresthali, outside Kathmandu.
Kathmandu’s shopping malls are open for business, but the blockade reduced store inventories and curtailed restaurant menus.
A man offers prayers at a shrine in Kathmandu Durbar Square.