Earthquake-Resilient Schools in Nepal


Setting the Scene: The Innovation Opportunity

On 25 April 2015, a devastating earthquake struck Nepal. The seismic event, which registered 7.8 on the Richter scale, caused widespread destruction, including more than 8,000 deaths, over 22,000 casualties, and hundreds of thousands of people left homeless. Aside from homes, the earthquake severely affected the country’s infrastructure, including government buildings and schools. Almost 9,000 schools were damaged or destroyed, disrupting the education of almost 1.5 million students.

In the aftermath of the earthquake, the Government of Nepal established the National Reconstruction Authority to oversee and fast-track reconstruction work. The government sought development partner support for this, and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) approved the Earthquake Emergency Assistance Project with cofinancing from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The scale of reconstruction needed was overwhelming, including roads and other infrastructure such as schools. There were fears that the affected generation of children would never recover and would drop out of school.

However, out of this tragedy came an opportunity to rebuild better. The challenge was how to manage a complex, large-scale project across multiple construction sites happening at the same time, including in difficult-to-reach areas, on terrain that made it all but impossible to source typical disaster-resilient construction materials. But if these challenges could be met, there was also an opportunity to fold in other elements, such as soft-skills training in disaster resilience on the new school sites, which would then be shared with families and communities.

What ADB Did: Innovation in Action

The Earthquake Emergency Assistance Project, a multisector public rebuilding project under the purview of the National Reconstruction Agency, was supported by $200 million in ADB loans and $3.4 million in technical assistance (TA). The grants from USAID, and the People’s Republic of China Poverty Reduction and Regional Cooperation Fund, as well as the Government of Nepal, took the total funding to just over $246 million. The TA element of the project was crucial because it brought in much-needed evidence-based construction technology, and ensured that both the construction and disaster resilience programs incorporated lessons learned from disaster recovery in other Asian countries. In addition, the project also repaired and improved about 135 kilometers (km) of strategic roads and about 450 km of rural roads damaged by the earthquake and landslides.


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