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Not much learnt from 2004 Tsunami

Twenty per cent of municipalities in coastal regions have tsunami hazard maps and seismic performance of 59 % of sea walls not conducted.

india Updated: Apr 13, 2011 22:44 IST
Chetan Chauhan

Most coastal regions in are still highly vulnerable to Tsunami despite the 2004 devastation that hit the Bay of Bengal coast, an environment ministry committee has said, while recommending measures to minimize the impact.

“The percentage of people who can evacuate in the even of a Tsunami is low, and effort to provide information to help the public to understand the true nature of tsunami is insufficient,” the ministry Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) said in its assessment of Tsunami preparedness in the country.

A Tsunami warning is possible within three to five minutes and the first wave can hit the shores within several minutes of the earthquake but observation of tide and wave length and offshore observation in Indian seas is not adequate. There is no consistency in reference level used by different organizations for tide observations, the committee said.

The vulnerability of Indian coasts can be gauged from the fact that seismic performance of 59 percent of sea walls in important coastal zones has not been conducted. Only 20 percent of municipalities in the coastal belt have Tsunami hazard maps and about 20 % do not have tsunami response drills.

The worse seems to be connecting with people as there is no established system for providing easy to understand information to local public bodies and residents, the committee said, while asking the government to prepare communities better to deal with cyclones and tsunamis.

“Roads, railways and airports located near coastline have not been inspected adequately with respect to safety against tsunami height…Many facilities storing hazardous and noxious substances such as Liquid Natural Gas, Nuclear Power Plants are not protected from tsunami,” the committee --- asked to evaluate infrastructure projects on Indian coasts after tsunami in --- said.

Highlighting that the fisherfolk living on Indian coasts are most vulnerable, the committee said, they need to be educated about good construction practices including site selection for building homes and information on the routes to safety once tsunami alarm is switched on. For add timely evacuation, the committee has suggested tsunami warning linked with magnitude of earthquake

For industrial projects in coastal areas, the committee has recommended additional conditions in the environment clearances. It includes defining ports and harbours on vulnerability to tsunami, the risk involved to the area, where they are set up and tsunami hazard map for each region of the Indian coasts.

The committee also wants the government to use satellites to study the impact on marine environment of Tsunami depending on the height of the waves and whether bio-shields can be created to minimize the impact.

The environment ministry with the World Bank has started Rs 125 crore project to map ’s coast line using satellite. ’s 7,500 km long coastline has been divided into two regions to conduct coastal vulnerability mapping. The Survey of India, a body under Department of Science and Technology, will implement the project.