Places to relax that may save lives in case of emergency

Apekshya Dhungel was studying landscape architecture in Freising when an earthquake struck Nepal in 2015. She returned to Kathmandu to apply her knowledge to the reconstruction efforts. Her area of expertise: open spaces.

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Apekshya Dhungel was in Germany preparing her master’s thesis when a massive earthquake struck her home country of Nepal in 2015. There was no question that she wanted to go and help. Her expertise as an architect is in great demand in Nepal: People may not be able to prevent earthquakes but good planning and construction can protect many from the worst. Following her graduation, Apekshya Dhungel returned to Kathmandu to work for an architecture firm that that spezializes in housing and open space planning. Her local salary is supplemented by a CIM grant.

Open spaces, such as the Bhaktapur Durbar Square, are important spots for the town‘s population, especially after an earthquake.

Apekshya in her office at the architecture firm Agni Builders private limited in Kathmandu.

An interview with Apekshya Dhungel:

What are you currently working on in Kathmandu?

As an architect, I specialize in planning open spaces, that means open-air places where people can spend time with each other, such as town squares and parks. These spaces are particularly important in case of natural disasters, as they offer protection from being injured or killed by collapsing buildings. This is where people can also be provided with food, water and medication as well as current updates on the situation. Plus, it gives them a sense of not being alone.

What do you enjoy most about your work here?

In planning a new project, I always involve the people whom it actually concerns. My role is to translate their needs and wishes into an architectural concept. When a space is designed and realized that way, people feel a stronger sense of connection and tend to assume responsibility for its upkeep and maintenance. 

Children are included in the planning activities.

What made you return to Nepal?

I had been planning to return to Nepal after graduation anyway, and even more so when the earthquake happened. Naturally, I wanted to be with my family right away and see if they were alright. I also wanted to help my hometown and support the reconstruction efforts.

How important is the knowledge you gained in Germany for you and the work you do?

In my program at the University of Freising, there were students from 18 different countries. I found this international exchange very inspiring. In landscape architecture, it is important to be able to develop different scenarios. I now have the chance to pass on all my knowledge to others here. I strongly believe that by sharing our knowledge we multiply it each time.

What are your plans for the future?

A professor of Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg was interested in my research and offered me a PhD position. So I will return to Germany to deepen my knowledge further. In my research, I want to focus especially on the needs of children. They need spaces that they can discover and that help them tap into their creative potential. These could be authentic, natural places where children can get to know native species, or they could be spaces where they can experiment with shapes and colours.

Exchange and cooperation are very important aspects of working life for Apekshya, such as here with her colleagues at the architecture firm.

Apekshya with her niece Swara, who was one of the reasons why the young architect wanted to help her home country Nepal.

On behalf of

The Centre for International Migration and Development (CIM) is jointly run by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and the International Placement Services (ZAV) of the German Federal Employment Agency (BA). Together, they have been providing development and labour market policy expertise since 1980. CIM places experts from the EU and those who have settled in Germany in developing countries and emerging economies. It offers a network for those who have migrated to Germany and who wish to support development in their country of origin. Our main commissioning party is the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

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