IIT study warns of high damages in Nainital, Mussoorie in case of major quake
Yogendra Singh, a seismologist at IIT Roorkee, said the study that concluded in January is the first of its kind carried out of vulnerable hill stations taking into account their topography
Uttarakhand’s Nainital and Mussoorie would suffer damages up to ₹ 1,447 crore and ₹ 1,054 crore in case of a major earthquake, a report based on a four-year Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Roorkee-led research has estimated.
Yogendra Singh, a seismologist at IIT Roorkee, said the study that concluded in January is the first of its kind carried out of vulnerable hill stations taking into account their topography. He added the calculations in the report titled “Next Generation Earthquake Loss Estimation Tool for Hilly Region” were made based on the survey of 5,101 buildings in Mussoorie and 7,793 buildings in Nainital using a software module.
“We conducted the survey using satellite images of both the hill stations and a ground survey of 10% of the housing structures. The software we have developed takes into consideration the area under structures and on that basis calculates their cost based on various other factors.”
Singh said housing structures are located high up on the mountains in Mussoorie. “...the number of housing structures is more in Nainital, cumulatively it will incur more losses compared to Mussoorie.”
Singh asked the government to commission a study to identify the most vulnerable slopes in the two hill stations where construction should be totally banned. “Second, the government should ensure construction is earthquake resistant and follows the national building code. Third, as a large number of constructions are not earthquake resistant, the government should ensure retrofitting to ensure they are somewhat resistant to earthquakes.”
State disaster management department secretary Ranjit Kumar Sinha said they will look into IIT’s research and ask the institute how it arrived at these figures. “After studying the research project, we will be in a position to comment on this.”
A large number of buildings in Nainital and Mussoorie are on steep slopes, which could be the main cause of the possible large losses in case of major earthquakes. Over a dozen earthquakes have been reported in the state over the last year or so.
Most of Uttarakhand falls under highly susceptible Seismic Zones 4 and 5.
Environmentalist Vipin Kumar said there was a major earthquake in Doon Valley in 1913. It was then decided that structures in Mussoorie should be made of lightweight material. “But over the years, a lot of heavy concrete structures have come up over the slopes in Mussoorie. It is natural that if there is a major earthquake, there will be major devastation.”
Located in the foothills of the Garhwal Himalayan range, the British found Mussoorie in the 1820s. The town had a population of 6,461 in 1901 which increased to 30,118 in 2011.
The National Green Tribunal last week last month ordered a carrying capacity study of Mussoorie in view of land subsidence in Joshimath. It formed a nine-member panel for suggesting remedial measures for preventing environmental damage in the hill station.
Residents of Mussoorie’s Landour Bazaar have been raising the issue of land subsidence blaming unplanned construction for it.
Nainital is one of the most landslide-prone areas in the state. Cracks have developed there on roads. Experts have warned that they are warning signs that all was not well.
Nainital is spread over 11.73 sq km. Its population swelled from 7,589 in 1881 to 41,377 in 2011. The number of buildings in Nainital, mostly on slopes, has increased from 520 in 1901-2 to over 7000.
Dehradun’s Centre for Ecology, Development and Research executive director Vishal Singh, who has conducted studies in Nainital, said the fragile slopes around the lake there are susceptible to damage in case of an earthquake.
“A major earthquake here can be catastrophic to over 48000 people living in over 7000 structures on its slopes. Nainital slopes are densely covered, with multistorey buildings with flat concrete rooftops, which are adding pressure on the slopes.”
He added though no new constructions are allowed in Nainital, people have increased the concretisation in the name of renovations. “After the 1880 earthquake in which 151 people were killed, Britishers developed a 79 km drain network on the hill slopes around Nainital to make them stable but many of them now lie choked with garbage, encroachments, and concrete.”