On August 2, a landslide in Nepal’s Sindhupalchowk district resulted in 33 deaths, with more than 120 missing and 400 displaced. A preliminary survey by the local District Disaster Relief Committee (DDRC) revealed 115 houses had been completely destroyed. The Nepali government has since declared all missing persons dead, bringing the total death toll to 150+. Other damages include a two-km section of a highway, the reconstruction of which, according to the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), is “nearly impossible”, and two gates of the Sun Koshi Hydropower Project.

People and households affected by the Jure landslide, by village. Source: DDRC
People and households affected by the Jure landslide, by village (link to chart and data). Source: DDRC

Satellite images of the area have shown that it’s been landslide-prone since at least 2011. Given the damage to the hydroelectric power project, the incident is another reminder that the Himalayan region presents significant geological threats to hydroelectric projects being planned in the region. GPS investigations in the past have revealed that the Lesser Himalayas, which the country of Nepal straddles, are rising at ≤ 3 mm/year due to movements on active faults, landslides being one symptom of this. As this article in Current Science argues, “If the idea is to have environment-friendly power projects, then the planners and dam builders must not ignore the geological reality of the geodynamically sensitive region”.