​2015 Earthquake - disaster or cornucopia?

By John All

This was the first time I’ve been back to the Khumbu since the 2015 Nepali earthquake. Evidence of the disaster is everywhere and unfortunately the ‘recovery process’ has become an ongoing ecological disaster in the buffer zone. But it has also ushered a new millennium of tourist development into the Khumbu and Goyko tourist areas as people flock to Everest Base Camp.

Prior to the 2015 earthquake, people in the regions around Mt. Everest were using the same building technology that their great, great, great grandparents had used - stacked rock walls and large flat rock or tiles for the roof. This type of architecture failed spectacularly during the earthquake  and the most important post-disaster task was to introduce new, safer building techniques and materials. The response has been nothing short of jaw-dropping as nearly every building in the Khumbu and Gokyo valleys that I saw was either rebuilt or retrofitted with a wooden structure, sheet metal walls and roofs, concrete foundations, concrete and rebar reinforced corners and bearing walls, solar panels and marine batteries, and WiFi available everywhere.

The building spree was most pronounced in the buffer zone outside of the park - where regulations seem to have been almost entirely removed and widespread timber cutting has resulted. Seeing so many trees that Edmund Hillary help plant being cut to build gigantic new teahouse complexes for the tourist hordes is deeply saddening. But it was a matter of time before a new development paradigm emerged and the earthquake provided the perfect pretext to remove regulation and allow more explosive development.

And given the huge numbers of tourists pouring into the area, it is no surprise that new huge tea houses are springing up everywhere using the light, quick, and cheap new building materials. The Khumbu I knew is disappearing, but I suppose every generation has said the same thing...