Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

May 2, 2015

Humanitarian Logistics in Nepal: Number 1

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on May 2, 2015

This is the first in what may be an irregular series of posts on humanitarian logistics and supply chain recovery in Nepal.   I am, in part, using this to gather links and information for future analysis.  If readers see related stories or resources, please share in the comments.

The initial 7.8 earthquake struck a few minutes before noon local time on April 25.  Several aftershocks have exceeded 5.0.

More than 6250 are confirmed dead.  At least 160,000 houses have been destroyed.  Many more are damaged.  The May 2 OCHA Situation Report indicates it is likely the number of lost houses could eventually exceed 500,000.  The number of displaced persons is roughly estimated at 2.8 million.

Over 3 million people are thought to be in urgent need of food assistance.

Many of the principal overland routes to India have been reopened.  The United Nations Logistics Cluster has released a current map.  Tons and tons of relief supplies have arrived at the international airport outside Kathmandu. A unit of US Marines will be assisting with airport flight operations and receipt of relief supplies.

Effective reception of goods at the airport has been aided by the establishment of a disaster staging area that opened in March.  This has allowed goods to be more rapidly relocated from the air-hub’s apron than is often the case in major disasters. There are still problems, but it would have been much worse without this strategic investment.

There are various reports of relief goods not being effectively distributed.  This is typically the result of local truckers, wholesalers, and retailers being victims themselves.  There are occasional media reports of this being the case in Nepal, but I have not seen what I consider an authoritative analysis.  The World Food Program has announced contracting with a fleet of 25 trucks.  Whether these are local assets or not is not clear.

The trucking/transport industry in Nepal is heavily self-organized.  So-called Transport Entrepreneurs Associations (TEA’s) dominate most regional markets.  It is not clear if these private sector syndicates were “pre-wired” into the staging area strategy and operation.  Now out-of-date figures (2001) report there are over 20,000 larger trucks in Nepal.

I have been surprised by media reports that fuel distribution is largely returning to “normal”.  Recently Nepal has suffered from sometimes acute fuel shortages without the complication of a major earthquake.

Earlier today, Saturday, a United Nations official complained that distribution of some relief goods is being delayed by Nepali customs officials. (UPDATE: Since Saturday there have been contradictory reports on this potential impediment.  Major media are giving the criticism more and more attention.  But when organizations gathered at a recent meeting of the Logistics Cluster were asked about the problem, none reported any specific instances of delays caused by customs procedures.   The Government of Nepal has admitted that some land-based customs officials had been slow to adjust to regulatory waivers, but have insisted customs clearance at the airport has been consistently expedited.  A guess: major organizations with Nepal-based experience know how to operate within the system, smaller organizations and “humanitarian tourists” do not.)

The Nepal Logistics Cluster site is a good place for ongoing updates and details.

In previous efforts by this blog to monitor logistics and supply chain operations — especially in Japan and the Philippines — there has been a strategic/operational disconnect between local truckers/trucking and national/international relief operations.  Any information in this regard on the situation in Nepal would be especially appreciated.

Other logistics lessons-learned from prior disasters, in the context of Nepal, are featured by the Globe and Mail.

More as I find it.


A couple of interesting bits, mostly gleaned from Logistics Cluster minutes.  As of late Saturday:

Bharatpur is where most of the commercial road transport capacity of the country is established. Bharatpur hub will be used as forward logistics base for the incoming road-transported cargo from India,to avoid all cargo transiting through Kathmandu before re-dispatching to affected locations… Discussions are ongoing with the transporter association in order to control transport rates, and expand the transport network to the affected areas, where possible… No issues in the availability of fuel were reported…

Quick comment: An airport is NOT typically a commodities hub. By giving more attention to Bharatpur the relief operation should increasingly be able to connect into pre-existing distribution networks and capacity. Roads between Bharatupur and India are mostly open and it is well-placed to supply hard-hit areas west of Kathmandu.  I will be looking for similar attention to be given to Birgunj, once roads have reopened between the border with India and Kathmandu. Regarding “transport rates” what is the difference between “gouging” and an “efficient market response”?

More reports are becoming available on the situation in the more remote areas of the impact zone.  (See excellent NYT maps.) As surveillance increases the recognized scope-and-scale of this disaster is likely to expand significantly… and the real challenge facing supply chain recovery will be more fully understood.  An issue that I perceive is too often obscured: humanitarian logistics is a crucially important step in serving survivors.  But depending on how humanitarian logistics is conceived and implemented this process can either expedite or suppress supply chain recovery.

(A piece in the May 3 edition of The Indian Express combines coverage of the current situation with implications for longer-term recovery.)

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Comment by William R. Cumming

May 3, 2015 @ 6:28 am


Comment by Philip J. Palin

May 3, 2015 @ 7:22 am

Bill: The earthquake hit mostly the central valleys of Nepal, not the border areas. Many roads have been made impassable. Moreover, I perceive there may well be cultural and communal tendencies to remain in place. In any case, while potentially 10 percent or more of the national population has been internally displaced, I am not seeing much movement outside Nepal… if that is what you mean by refugees.

Comment by William R. Cumming

May 3, 2015 @ 2:49 pm

Thanks Phil! Internal Displacement in Nepal horrendous recovery issue.

Comment by William R. Cumming

May 4, 2015 @ 7:59 am

The following report also available on the FAS/FEMA page:

Displacement: The New 21st Century Challenge, UNHCR, June 2013

Comment by William R. Cumming

May 4, 2015 @ 8:19 am

Okay one of the reasons I like to study and think about HS and EM is that at least in theory they are disciplines and fields of study and worry for the political leadership of all nation-states.

And how the world’s oldest and richest democracy [republic] accomplishes those fields should be of interest to the world and to the polity of the USA as it is to me.

N.B. I have long furnished my own definitions of HS and EM on my website at http://www.vacationlanegrp.com

And now request that all posters and readers and commentators on this blog think about think about the following question:

Given the current understand of governance is the existence of nation-states fundamental to the success of HS and EM? And if so what are the threats to the nation-state system?

Two threats IMO are the Globalization of Finance and religions but could be wrong.

A number of MULTI-LATERAL international organizations were created in WWII and shortly thereafter.

One in particular I will pick on. THE WORLD BANK. From its formation at the Bretton Woods Conference in 1944 until about 1992 the dominant discipline of the WORLD BANK WAS ECONOMICS and the dominant interest was economics of development.

The World Bank could have cared less about even the economic consequences of disasters–whether natural or man-made.

It has been slow and painful but now IMO the WORLD BANK HAS BECOME ONE OF THE FOREMOST SITES OF STUDY AND ANALYSIS ON DISASTERS. Note that the World Bank makes development loans only to governments and for specific projects This practice supports the nation-state system largely created in 1648 by Treaties opposed by the POPE for one.

So another question? Has any nation-state ever been destroyed by a natural disaster outside of warfare [organized inter-state violence has both destroyed and created and sustained a number of nation-states]?

NEPAL has been considered a Nation-State but should it remain so?

IMO the response and recovery from the 2015 earthquake will provide the answer but I am guessing NEPAL will retain only the fiction of Nation-State status!

Comment by Philip J. Palin

May 4, 2015 @ 8:19 am

Bill: Thanks very much. The replacement housing challenge is ferocious. Four years after the Triple Disaster in Japan, most of those who lost their homes are still in “temporary” housing. The same challenge will very much face the US when a dense urban area is hit by a major hurricane, earthquake, or other “big-foot” disaster. Mitigation pre-event is the best approach. But that is difficult politically/fiscally. In terms of after-the-fact, we have, so far, been unable (unwilling?) to craft a realistic market-oriented, whole community approach to recovery planning. I don’t know of any successful model. In fact, I would be pleased to just see more attempted models, regardless of success.

Comment by William R. Cumming

May 4, 2015 @ 8:32 am

P.S.! I think even a cursory review of the economics of disasters reveal the dearth of real analysis by that profession. First economists seem to have different thinking
when addressing impacts of disasters in the developed world
[defined by me as having a GDP that supports its population without the revenues of the extractive industries] and the developing world [defined by me as those nation-states that really don’t control or regulate the extractive industries within their borders].

The WORLD BANK bowing to geo-politics e.g. has the Chinese nation-state defined as developed in allowing the Chinese to have an ED at the WB even while remaining as a developing country for WB loans. And the new bank being formed by China I am sure will have the same dichotomy.

BTW China participated in the WB by long-term interest and thus learned how well to manipulate its politics and thus wanted its own bank.

Those interested in China might read a newly released book called something like THE 100 YEARS WAR. With over 1/2 of the world’s population India and China are in fact the new nation-state ball game IMO.

Any links as to how India and China do HS and EM?

Comment by William R. Cumming

May 4, 2015 @ 8:38 am

Thanks Phil! And am sure that no one noticed that one of the most expert US citizens on DISPLACEMENT was Deputy Secretary Jane Lute. I am sure no one in DHS and FEMA understood how that expertise might be applied domestically. But if you examine displacement from Hurricane Katrina [any links?] you might have different thinking.

Comment by ankit

October 10, 2017 @ 11:53 pm

great post i love it

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