Advancing environmental justice to disaster settings: Insights from Nepal’s earthquake recovery practice

A/Prof. Krishna Shrestha1, Dr Bisika Thapa2, Professor Eileen Baldry1, Professor  Anthony Zwi1, Dr Hemant Ojha1, Mr Santosh Sharma2

1University of New South Wales , Kensignton, Australia

2CARE Nepal, Lalitpur, Nepal


Justice in the context of disasters is important but under-analysed.  While disasters affect everyone, they have disproportionate impacts on women, poor and the disadvantaged; not everyone has equal ability to respond to these impacts.  The paper examines uneven consequences of disasters, the ways different people are responding to disaster impacts and the appropriateness of responses from government and non-government organisations, thereby identifying winners and losers in the recovery process.  Informed by the literature from environmental justice and moral philosophy and drawing on two case studies from Gorkha – the epicentre of Nepal’s 2015 earthquakes, the paper demonstrates that disasters exposes socio-economic inequalities with the people of higher class tend to showcase their resources and capacity during the recovery process. Moreover, the principle of equal distribution of resources often employed by government and non-government organisations are not equal in practice because of the pre-existing inequalities along the line of gender, class and ethnicity. Unlike in many environmental justice programs where the roles of social elites are seen problematic, local elites can play a positive role in the disaster recovery. Disasters necessitate a consideration of justice in policy and practices, in addition to advancing the concept of ‘justice’ in disaster settings.


Krishna K. Shrestha is a development and environmental geographer. His research program is in the interdisciplinary analysis of Social and Environmental Justice, focusing on the intersection of development and environmental planning, policy and management. Over the years, his research projects encompass four key areas: a) political ecology and international development, b) climate change adaptation and urban planning, c) food security and livelihoods, and d) disaster resilience and justice. Connecting these is an overarching analytical thread of justice as redistribution and recognition. Krishna’s work constitutes blending a) moral philosophy and theories of justice with critical development theories and political ecology.

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