Heidelberg University > South Asia Institute > Dept. of. Geography >

Landslide Hazard and Vulnerability:

Unsafe Conditions in the Middle Hills of Nepal

Project Team
Prof. Dr. Marcus Nüsser
Dipl. Geogr. Thomas Lennartz

Duration: 2012 - 2014
Funding: German Research Foundation (DFG)
Project number: NU102 / 12-1

Landslides seriously affect the every-day life of already marginalised mountain dwellers in Nepal. Year by year, slope failures cause fatalities and destroy houses, technical infrastructure, and agricultural land throughout the country. So far, landslide studies in Nepal and elsewhere mainly focus on the analysis of the physical processes, which lead to slope failures. In order to develop comprehensive risk management strategies such hazard-centred analyses must be complemented with an evaluation of social vulnerability from a livelihood-perspective.

Situated in the middle hill region of mid-western Nepal, Rukum District offers suitable conditions to study the vulnerability of rural households to landslides. Due to heavily concentrated annual precipitation and fragile geological units, the area is highly susceptible to slope failure. At the same time, the lower slope sections and valley bottoms are intensely used for agriculture and hence densely populated. In addition, the area is affected by recent transformation processes (e.g. transition from civil war, extensive road construction), which have major impact on the households' vulnerability.

The basic goal of the research project is to improve the understanding of the unsafe conditions of local people living in rural mountain regions. It aims at gaining a deeper insight into the rationales of people settling in landslide-prone areas. In this respect, economic incentives, local peoples' knowledge of hazard processes, and their perception of overall risk is considered. In addition, the potential impact of landslides on rural livelihoods is analysed. Finally, the research evaluates local capacities for prevention and coping, which are often reduced by a lack of resources. In order to capture landslide vulnerability in all its many facets the study applies a multi-method approach which comprises qualitative an quantitative data collection techniques as well as GIS-based analyses.

Villagers (red box) reconstruct an irrigation channel which was destroyed by a landslide (T. Lennartz, 2009)