Chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat inaugurates a seminar organised by the State Disaster Management Authority in the state capital on Tuesday.(Vinay S Kumar/HT Photo)
Chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat inaugurates a seminar organised by the State Disaster Management Authority in the state capital on Tuesday.(Vinay S Kumar/HT Photo)

Uttarakhand CM bats for traditional architecture to curb losses from tremors

The massive losses of life and property caused by the seismic activity can be considerably minimised in the earthquake-prone mountain state like Uttarakhand by adopting little precautions such as building houses based on traditional architecture, chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat said
By Deep Joshi | Hindustan Times, Dehradun
PUBLISHED ON NOV 21, 2017 08:24 PM IST

The massive losses of life and property caused by the seismic activity can be considerably minimised in the earthquake-prone mountain state like Uttarakhand by adopting little precautions such as building houses based on traditional architecture, chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat said on Tuesday.

“Most seismic events whenever they occur take a massive toll on human lives. Such losses can be avoided provided we observe little precautions like adopting our traditional housing architecture,” Rawat said.

He was speaking at the inaugural session of a two-day seminar on Disaster Resilient Infrastructure in the Himalayas: Opportunities and Challenges that began here on Tuesday. The Uttarakhand State Disaster Management Authority is the seminar’s organiser.

Citing an example of Jamak village, Rawat said the maximum 42 deaths were reported from there during the 1991 Uttarkashi earthquake.

“I was the first one to reach that village accompanied by the members of a self- help group,” he recalled. “A closer scrutiny revealed that so many people died after the lintels fell on them along with houses owing to the earthquake.”

Rawat recalled the lintels were too thick for the walls of their houses. “We discovered that an unusually huge quantity of cement was used in the lintels as it was amply supplied to that village for building a dam sometime back,” he said.

“Walls of the houses couldn’t take the weight of those heavy lintels and caved in owing to the massive tremors resulting in high mortality.”

“On the contrary, those tremors had no impact on the five-storey houses in the Yamuna valley despite dating back to some 300 years,” Rawat said, adding that they withstood the impact of the massive earthquake as they were based on the traditional architecture.

“We should, therefore, observe as much precautions as possible,” he said while noting that 38 light tremors were reported in the hill state in the last two years.

“Experts say such light tremors are a positive sign because they help release the energy that keeps gathering inside the earth owing to the collision of the tectonic plates,” Rawat said.

He, however, said the past 25 years witnessed an increase in the frequency of natural disasters occurring in the mountain state. “That, many see, as an upshot of the conflict between the environmental imbalance and the increasing demand for development,” Rawat said.

“There is therefore a need to ensure that growth and ecological conservation are complementary to each other.”

Vinod K Gaur, a professor at the Indian Institute of Astrophysics in Bengaluru, also expressed concern over the designs of buildings built in the mountain state not being different from those in the plains.

“Building design practices prevalent in the plain areas being applied in the hills without keeping in mind the demands of the fragile mountain ecology is definitely an area of concern,” he said suggesting that the scientific community “apply their minds” to innovate design practices suitable to the sensitive hill ecology.

Harsh Kumar Gupta, a member of the central government’s Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, said preparedness for earthquakes could help minimise the losses caused by them.

Gupta said the impact of the seismic events was more pronounced in schools. “So, it is necessary that the preparedness for the natural disasters like earthquakes should start from schools,” he suggested.

Kamal Kishor, a member of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), underlined the need for preparing a disaster resilient society like the disaster resilient infrastructure. “If we don’t do that what use science has for its own sake,” he said.

In his opening remark disaster management secretary Amit Negi made an elaborate presentation on the steps being taken by the state government in the area of disaster management.

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