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Social capital in disaster risk management; a case study of social capital mobilization following the 1934 Kathmandu Valley earthquake in Nepal

Roshan Bhakta Bhandari (Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre, Faculty of Education, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia)

Disaster Prevention and Management

ISSN: 0965-3562

Article publication date: 29 July 2014




The purpose of this paper is to examine how social capital operated in the lives of 15 respondents from Lalitpur following the massive 1934 Kathmandu Valley earthquake. Based on experiences of the survivors, it attempts to understand how individuals and families utilized their social capital in the aftermath of the earthquake, and rebuild their lives and communities.


This is a qualitative study based on non-structured interviews and discussions with disaster victims on their own locality. Following Padgett's (2008) grounded theory approach, flexible method of data collection is adopted through interactions with respondents and following up on important cues or patterns as additional data emerged.


Participants described a process through which they relied on bonding, bridging and linking social capital in different stages of earthquake response and recovery. Close ties or bonding social capital were important for immediate support, but bridging and linking social capital offered pathways to longer term survival and wider neighbourhood and community revitalization. This paper also discusses how social capital inclusion in pre-disaster communities might be helpful to strengthen their response capacity.

Research limitations/implications

As the study participants were less than ten years old when the earthquake happened, they might have omitted or overlooked some important details about the event. The findings are based not only on participant's own memories, but they also shared stories told by their parents which were the indirect experiences.

Practical implications

This study indicates the potential value and need for including bonding, bridging and linking social capital and traditional social networks in disaster planning. A key outcome related to disaster policy would be what institutional condition or combinations of different dimensions of social capital may serve the public for better disaster response and recovery.


This study has paid attention to how social capital might be useful in disaster risk reduction both in post-disaster phase and in pre-disaster condition which may be rare in disaster studies. It also provides an insight into how community-based disaster management can take into account pre-existing social systems and traditional social networks to build local capacities.



The author wishes to acknowledge local respondents at Lalitpur, Nepal who graciously gave their time and participated in interviews. This research was carried out while the author was a Doctoral Student under Japanese Government fellowship at the Disaster Prevention Research Institute, Kyoto University, Japan.


Bhakta Bhandari, R. (2014), "Social capital in disaster risk management; a case study of social capital mobilization following the 1934 Kathmandu Valley earthquake in Nepal", Disaster Prevention and Management, Vol. 23 No. 4, pp. 314-328.



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