A government report on Nepal's earthquakes on 25 April and 12 May, which caused around 8,600 deaths and displaced at least 2.8 million people, rightly prioritizes the reconstruction of buildings and infrastructure (see go.nature.com/pdksq6). However, it overlooks the impact of large-scale restoration work on the fragile environment and imperilled ecosystems. The importance of this was learned from the extensive rebuilding in Aceh, Indonesia, after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
A report on rebuilding in Aceh recommended addressing environmental degradation early in the redesign process to limit potential damage during reconstruction, with a view to minimizing deforestation and exploitation of natural resources (see http://go.nature.com/xpaxju).
Likewise, the international aid community should support Nepal in using environmentally friendly reconstruction methods. The government must regulate the extraction of clay soil — in demand for producing trillions of fire bricks — because this can trigger landslides and erode fragile terrain. It should impose carbon-emissions standards on brick kilns and make them cleaner and more efficient, to cut pollution and wood consumption. (Deforestation has claimed around two-thirds of Nepal's natural forest in 30 years.) Controlling the excavation of gravel and sand from river beds would reduce the risk of diverting important currents, and would protect river ecosystems.