Having come a long way since the Gorkha Earthquake of April 2015, which caused catastrophic infrastructure damage throughout the country, the Nepalese people have shown remarkable resilience. While the emotional yet determined recovery of the brave Gurkhas has been played around the world endlessly, the story unfortunately isn’t quite over yet. More than two years have passed and the country is still not even half way through the reconstruction process. Out of the 654,366 beneficiaries recognized by the Ministry of Urban Development, only 50,245 have been reported to have completed the reconstruction of their residences as of September 28, 2017. This rebuilding process remains much slower than anticipated, and is estimated to last at least a few more years.
Earlier this summer Nepal Flying Labs, the DroNepal team (Nepal Flying Labs Business Incubation Program finalists), and two other local partners took a 6 hour bus ride, followed by a 2 hour hike, East of Kathmandu to the beautiful village Shermathang. At an altitude of 2,600 meters, Shermathang boasts scenic beauty and a trekking route that goes as far up as to Helambu, a popular tourist destination. Still untouched by the reconstruction process, this village – which has traditionally played a large role in promoting local tourism – had been wondering when it would get on its feet again. More recently however, the people living in Shermathang decided to no longer wait for someone else to come and fix their homes for them. Rather, they have started looking towards finding the right partners to help them plan and rebuild the village themselves, even more beautiful than before. With the goal of helping Nepal reach sustainable development through more accurate data analysis and community-based participatory planning, Nepal Flying Labs and DroNepal are fortunate to work with this proactive community towards achieving their goal of a model village.
Prior to beginning the new plan of Shermathang, it was important to have all the data ready and accurate, so the initial task was to do a comprehensive survey of the village. The teams started off by establishing ground control points at pre-calculated locations using DGPS (Differential GPS: a device that improves the GPS accuracy), and then proceeded to conduct an aerial survey of the village using drones. This resulted in over 20 Gigabytes of data, which is currently processing in order to generate high resolution maps and 3D models of the village. These will be printed on large vinyl posters and handed over to the newly formed local government, as well as community members, who will all sit down together with our civil engineering partners to redesign the village and make it more attractive and resilient.
The ultimate goal is a completely remodeled and resilient village, which requires ample time and participation from the local residents. One fact in particular which surprised the DroNepal team here was how active the participation of women was alongside men during the entire process thus far. There was a session held, which many women from the community attended, which explained the objectives of this project and the basics of the technologies used. Nepal Flying Labs is committed to helping enable women in rural areas of the country learn about the social good that drones/robotics can bring, and hopes that these women will continue to take active roles in rebuilding and disaster resilience.
Ranging from as low as around 70 meters, to as high as 8,848, Nepal presents a diverse topographical structure with a wide variety of culture, biodiversity and ethnicities. Furthermore, being so rich in natural resources and scenic beauty, Nepal has much potential for tourism. While this is just a small step towards facilitating more sustainable and resilient planning and reconstruction, our role in the coming days will be to work as a team with all the local community members and prepare a master plan for the village using accurate topographical data. Once the maps of Shermathang are completed we will be happily sharing them here, along with the recommendations that are derived. DroNepal, as well as Nepal Flying Labs, is extremely grateful to be using innovative technologies to aid in the country’s recovery, helping ensuring its prosperous and sustainable future, and hopes to continue doing so.