The city of Kathmandu is the most important political, commercial, and industrial center in
Nepal and the biggest urban conglomerate. It lies in an oval shaped valley, which, legend
has it, used to be a lake in ancient times, leaving fertile soil behind for farming. This valley
has urbanized rapidly since the 1980’s; in the last decade alone it has grown from 1.6 million
inhabitants in 2001 to 2.5 million in 2011. Kathmandu is also the most at risk city in the world
in terms of potential death from earthquake, with major earthquakes historically occurring every
50 – 80 years. While the projections vary, if a Richter Scale 8.1 magnitude earthquake struck
Kathmandu Valley today as it did in 1934, approximately 250,000 people are expected to be
killed, 500,000 may require hospitalization, 50 percent of the population will be left homeless,
and 60 percent of all buildings will be heavily damaged. Kathmandu needs smart urban planning
and strong community engagement to bring about urban resilience across the economic, physical,
social, and environmental sectors.
Given this context, the Open Cities Project works on two complementary components. The first component is asset and exposure data collection in urban areas. This is an important step towards creating a robust asset inventory, which will form the base layer of urban planning and risk information systems. The Open Cities Project collects data through open and participatory methods in partnership with local government agencies, universities, technical communities, and the private sector. This data will be open and available to the public through www.openstreetmap.org under a license that facilitates and encourages widespread use. The second part involves facilitating ongoing civic technology engagement and experimentation that leverage the open asset data. The juxtaposition of open data and civic engagement will stimulate the creation of tools and applications for improving urban planning and disaster resilience in the valley. Our approach allows a broad range of members in society to participate in the effort to understand and improve urban resilience.
With support from the World Bank and Global Facility for Disaster Risk Reduction, Open Cities Kathmandu has accomplished the followings:
- We have mapped over 100,000 buildings and collected exposure data for 2256 educational and 350 health facilities within Kathmandu Valley.
- We have given introductory trainings on OpenStreetMap to over 1500 people. And we have sensitized a large number of people on open data, and OpenStreetMap in particular, through what we call sensitization presentation. Over the last eleven months, we have given nearly four-dozen presentations to universities, government agencies and international development organizations.