India’s own earthquake plan moving at snail’s place
India reacted fast to help the victims of earthquake in Nepal but has been slow in implementing its own action plan to make cities earthquake proof. So much so that most of the plans initiated after devastating earthquakes in Latur and Bhuj have not moved ahead much.
The most ambitious programme of the ministry of earth sciences and the Indian meteorological department (IMD) to prepare a seismic hazard and risk microzonation map of major cities has not been completed.
According to a report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) submitted in Parliament in 2013, the government initiated a programme in 2007 to create a national database for seismic hazard and regional risk appraisal to provide resources for remedial upgradation and for land use planning for policy makers.
Even though the government allocated `298 crore for the scheme, not much work could be completed till 2012 as standard guidelines for microzonation work in the country were released only in October 2012. As a result, microzonation of major Indian cities could not be completed.
Another major programme to strengthen and modernise the National Seismological Network for improving the detection and location capability for earthquakes of magnitude greater than 3 on the Richter Scale was still in the “preliminary stage”
The CAG report also said the ministry of earth sciences was supposed to prepare an earthquake management plan but it was not able to do so till July 2012.
The CAG also found that the National Disaster Management Authority’s earthquake risk mitigation project was still in the preparatory stage though the work was awarded to the Buildings Materials and Technology Promotion Council in June 2011.
Under this project, the buildings in cities vulnerable to earthquakes were to be identified and retro-fitted to make them safe. Most of the lives lost during Bhuj and Latur earthquakes were because of building collapse, the scientific studies on two disasters had concluded.
Highly earthquake prone states like Uttarakhand had set up hazard safety cells in May 2005 to identify vulnerable lifeline buildings such as hospitals and fire stations. The cell had identified 7,374 buildings of which 1109 were found to be vulnerable to moderate earthquake. “These buildings were to be retrofitted, but no measures had been taken,” the CAG report said and quoted the state government to blame the safety cell officials for failing to make these important buildings safe.