Group President, Group Managing Director & Editor In Chief: Dr.Shelly Ahmed

Monday, April 27, 2015

Himalayan Tragedy: A Catastrophe Waiting To Happen?

EDITORIAL: Nepal earthquake should jolt India into robust disaster mitigation measures. The 7.9 magnitude earthquake that hammered Nepal, killing at least 6,000 and reducing to rubble hundreds of buildings and human dwellings, is the worst the country has suffered in 81 years. 

Nepalese Premier Sushil Koirala's impassioned appeal for international humanitarian aid has been heard by Prime Minister Narendra Modi ­ who acted swiftly to despatch an Indian emergency aid and rescue team ­ as well as other global leaders.
But the scale of the devastation across Nepal will call for much more in succeeding days. As a good neighbour, India must volunteer to head international cooperation in Nepal's hour of crisis.

The tremors, followed by several aftershocks, rattled the entire arc running from north India to the east and northeast, among the most seismically hazardous regions on earth. It also killed over 100 people across UP, Bihar and West Bengal. The grim situation demands an immediate reappraisal of our own preparedness when nature throws at us killer quakes or other cataclysms. 

Here's a sobering thought. What if the earthquake had struck 77km northwest not of Nepal's but of India's capital? Damage would have been far more extensive as this is a more densely populated region than Nepal is. Experts opine that about half of Delhi would be flattened. That 58.6% of the Indian landmass is prone to earthquakes of moderate to very high intensity should jolt the authorities to move towards efficient disaster management. 

Earthquakes cannot be predicted or prevented, they can only be planned for with adequate mitigation measures beforehand. While such mitigation measures must be built into development work, inadequately designed buildings should be retrofitted with material that will withstand powerful quakes. Municipal regulations, building byelaws and structural safety features need to be revisited and existing ones fully implemented and enforced. Arterial roads in large cities should be made earthquake proof.

While training of engineers and disaster management staff cannot be over-emphasised, constant monitoring of critical infrastructures such as roads, dams, bridges, railway tracks, power stations, nuclear plants, water storage facilities must be a priority.

But above all, a compliance regime must be instituted to ensure that disaster mitigation measures are made binding at the central and state levels. Drills and information campaigns have to be periodically undertaken so that everyone is aware of how to save themselves or come to the aid of others in an emergency.

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