Terrawatch: After the earthquake – the monsoon brings landslips[courtesy:the guardian]


A damaged village seen from the Araniko Highway after the earthquake in Nepal last May. Landslides during the monsoon season could bring more devastation. Photograph: Alamy


It has been just over two months since the devastating earthquake in Nepal and, for much of the world, the event has faded from memory. But for Nepalese people the nightmare continues and now that the monsoon rains have arrived a new threat looms.

Every year landslides are common in Nepal during the monsoon, which usually runs from June to September, but this year is likely to be particuarly bad. Steep hillsides have been seriously destabilised by the magnitude 7.8 earthquake in April and its subsequent aftershocks, and it is feared that the heavy rains will trigger multiple landslides from these precarious slopes.

Of particular concern is the Araniko highway, the main road linking Nepal with Tibet and China and a major conduit for goods from China. Unfortunately, this region, to the north-east of Kathmandu, was hard hit by the earthquake, and the road has only recently been reopened after mammoth clearance efforts.

But travelling down the highway is likely to be exceptionally risky during the monsoon. Cracks created by the earthquakes have left entire hillsides hanging and falling rocks are a constant hazard. Meanwhile, sludge-like landslides pulse down the rivers that the highway crosses. The usually bustling trading towns are now empty, their residents evacuated to makeshift tents in Kathmandu. And the new threat makes it too dangerous to return.

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