Earthquake preparedness in India is achievable

By: Prof. Chandan Ghosh

New Delhi, January 30 (G’nY News Service): The Himalayan tectonics have once again put forth the urgency of earthquake preparedness, which have to be understood as not merely remembering the severe seismic zones we belong to, but its implication. This needs to be adapted to our every day agenda.

The agenda does not only pertain to creating popular debate in the media and demonstrating how concerned we become when an earthquake strikes. When the twin earthquake in Nepal (April-May 2015) shook Kathmandu and adjoining areas, we had no sensitive equipment or instruments that could warn us against the impending dangers of aftershocks. When a moderate earthquake in Manipur shook the entire Northeast on January 4, 2016, buildings and roads caved in. The realities of such events have been captured in myriad thought provoking visuals and videos, which were shared across the social media. The fragility of the structures reveals the abject condition of our built-up facilities, which perhaps would not have resulted if proper guidance were forthcoming.

As has been our mandate, we have undertaken several courses on capacity building, provided training on various facets of disaster management, distributed knowledge materials during trade fairs or exhibitions, organised meetings/conferences, complied to UN directives/declaration time to time, opened up web portals with linkage to knowledge materials across the globe, put up regular newspaper advertisements, ever since 1995.

But, why is it that we count success stories without replicating them to other areas, create institutional mechanisms sans functional route maps for them to act in synergy or deploy response forces within minimum possible time sans logistic chain maintenance with situational demand and supply or reaching to the public with gift cheques using air vehicles sans proper set-up for landing.

It is also not the goal of a healthy nation to keep collecting aids from others as a medium of sharing ethos and distributing relief packets or monetary package to the affected lot as one-time grants, followed by declaring matching grants to carry out reconstruction and rehabilitation measures.

Every event, be it earthquake, flood or landslides, there are certain symptoms to scientifically codify (Fig 1), followed up by actions to be enforced with the active participation of the government, society and operational agencies such as state and central public works department, municipalities, panchayat, local bodies, etc.  Taking the example of buildings’ performance in Japan and propagating the technical know how across the country, it is always possible to make our built up facilities resistant against a major shock. Earthquake preparedness is, therefore, real and achievable as Japan and California have shown to the world, followed by New Zealand after Christchurch (2011), Turkey after Marmara (1999), Taiwan after Chi Chi (1999) earthquake.

Seismic zone-1There are codes/guidelines available in India since 1962. However, governmental decree is not enough for building norms to be readily adopted in our country. The mass scale awareness campaign started by central and state government for the last two decades has made some grounds, yet lot more needs to be done. Most startlingly, even after one decade of the Disaster Management Act 2005, the laws and rules haven’t percolated to the common man who needs to accept the guidelines under the careful supervision of professional/experts.


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