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Landscape, Livelihoods and Risk: Community Vulnerability to Landslides in Nepal

OVEN, KATIE,JANE (2009) Landscape, Livelihoods and Risk: Community Vulnerability to Landslides in Nepal. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



The occurrence of fatal landslides in Nepal is increasing with time, faster than the effects of monsoonal variations. Possible explanations for the trends observed include: land-use change, population growth, and the development of transport infrastructure. However, to date, there is little evidence to support these postulated causes and very little research into the nature of landslide vulnerability in the Nepalese context. This research takes an interdisciplinary approach to examine, and where necessary, challenge a series of assumptions made regarding landslide vulnerability in Nepal with a view to developing a better understanding of social vulnerability and its underlying causes.

Firstly, a bottom up livelihoods based approach is adopted to examine the following research questions: (1) Who is vulnerable to landslide hazard?; (2) Why do people occupy landslide prone areas?; and (3) How do ‘at risk’ rural communities perceive and respond to landslide hazard and risk? In so doing, this thesis approaches the question of landslide vulnerability from the perspective of the vulnerable people themselves. Secondly, the research explores how scientists and policy experts view landslide risk management in Nepal and how policy is subsequently informed and shaped.

The findings highlight the impact of infrastructure projects in rural Nepal. Within the Upper Bhote Koshi Valley clear transitions in settlement patterns and rural livelihoods (and thus the occupation of landslide prone areas) have been seen over time. For the majority of households, their decision to occupy these areas is driven by the economic and social benefits associated with the road. Landslide risk therefore emerges not just from societal marginalisation but also from situations of relative prosperity. The findings suggest that occupants of landslide prone areas have a good understanding of landslide hazard and its associated risk. However, these risks are contextualised in relation to other social concerns. The significance of the findings for landslide policy and practice are addressed along with different actors’ views of landslide risk management in Nepal.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Nepal; landslide; social vulnerability; risk perception; interdisciplinary research
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Geography, Department of
Thesis Date:2009
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:25 Mar 2010 15:51

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