Situating local stakeholders within national disaster governance structures: rebuilding urban neighbourhoods following the 2015 Nepal earthquake

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Environment and Urbanization, Volume 29, Issue 2, p.403-424 (2017)


A 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Nepal on 25 April 2015, killing nearly 9,000 people and destroying half a million homes. This paper analyses the effectiveness of Nepali government institutions managing the reconstruction. Using institutional ethnography, we analyse how the post-earthquake governance framework has incorporated the flexibility and decentralization outlined in pre-earthquake plans. We balance this with observations from five case study urban settlements in the Kathmandu Valley to provide a bottom-up perspective on how local stakeholders are engaged in rebuilding their communities. The creation of ad hoc national-level disaster management agencies can weaken already under-resourced local governance structures. The Nepal case study reveals that national disaster management plans drafted after the Hyogo and Sendai frameworks, which promote the decentralization of disaster governance, are not necessarily followed up with practical steps to empower local stakeholders and facilitate decentralization - and are readily dismissed in the face of a real emergency.