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A team of architects and engineers from Australia is working alongside the Australian Himalayan Foundation (AHF) to design and build ‘earthquake-resilient’ classrooms in Lower Solukhumbu. Lower Solukhumbu is one of Nepal’s poorest districts and is on the south of Everest. David Francis is the project coordinator. Incidentally, Francis has led mountaineering treks through the Himalayas for the past 35 years.
It may be remembered here that in 2015 an earthquake of 7.8 magnitude on Richter scale had struck the Himalayan nation claiming the lives of 9,000 people, injuring tens of thousands of people and destroyed thousands of homes, schools and other infrastructure. In the Lower Solukhumbu region alone, 200 schools were destroyed or badly damaged, with more than 600 classrooms lost.
Australian engineering company TTW and architecture firm Hassell kicked off the project of designing ‘earthquake-resilient’ buildings. Classrooms are built with the help of a steel frame with components light enough to be carried on the backs of porters to remote areas, but strong enough to withstand future earthquakes and storms. The structure, which can be put together in two days, consists of a low stone base which absorbs seismic forces, while corrugated iron is used for the walls and roofing. The basic idea of the design is if the structure collapses, the low height of the rock wall would reduce the risk of injury. Earlier the schools were just built of mud and stone with no concrete and no earthquake resilient design which were badly affected by the second earthquake.
Till now more than 50 new classrooms have been built across the Solukhumbu region, and more are planned.