Earthquake resistant public buildings

There can be no two opinions that the whole of last year as well as most part of this year got most of our priorities focussed on fighting the grave challenge of COVID-19 pandemic and, therefore, mobility of manpower especially related to actual field duties got adversely impacted and restricted in various sectors. There can, therefore, be clarifications and justifications given for certain commitments of public interest not being fulfilled largely in respect of implementation of certain vital procedures where vulnerabilities to natural disasters were feared depending upon due surveys having been made in that respect. However, when things have largely eased and normalcy in day to day working having got restored, any deferment or postponement of actions required to be taken in a time bound manner would constitute a casual approach, if not an absolute wilful obstinacy.
Coming to the moot point, Jammu and Kashmir is such a vast area which is known for seismicity and having trap or basaltic rocks making it highly earthquake prone. Basically, in common parlance, the earth shakes due to isostatic adjustment of the rocks under the surface of the earth which we call an earthquake. It may be noted that Jammu and Kashmir and even Ladakh both the UTs fall in Zones 4 and 5 which are ”very severe” and ”severe intensity” seismic zones as per studies made by Bureau of Indian Standards which has grouped the country’s seismic zones into four categories . In this connection, if we recollect the peculiarity in designing of houses and in using of the type of building material, especially in Kashmir valley, they were such primarily to lessen and mitigate, if not altogether remove, the impact of an earthquake. In rarest of rare cases, a few such buildings still exist bearing testimony to the fact how solutions in ”their own way ” were already in place to face with least impact even a severe earthquake.
Since vulnerability and, therefore, challenges imminent from the earthquakes remain there, rather get accentuated due to host of reasons like increase in population and covering more and more very limited open land with concrete jungles, therefore, a programme at the national level known as National Seismic Risk Mitigation Programme (NSRMP) becomes more relevant and of great utility in mitigating the impact of an earthquake on buildings, provided provisions thereof were followed and implemented. Therefore, under the said programme, vital public buildings in the UT of Jammu and Kashmir and of those other areas in the country identified as such, are to be ensured to be made as earthquake resistant. Since the task involves collecting of the requisite data and particulars needed as per this programme’s implementation, it is reported that procedural formalities in Jammu and Kashmir have already been completed last year in March. Thereafter, no further concrete steps having been taken is indicative of taking the programme not that seriously which it deserved. How much more time was required in this task, no one in the UT Administration is in a position to specify.
The questions, therefore, are whether the exercise of checking of levels of seismology in specific areas in Jammu and Kashmir has been completed or not? Whether such public buildings have been identified which are required to be made earthquake resistant? Whether for evolving a long term planning and strategy for affecting seismic retrofitting of the buildings in the UT has been drawn , at least on paper? Whether a blue print in run up and pursuant to implementing the earthquake management measures as mentioned in the NSRMP has been drawn with special emphasis on making new public buildings and structures as earthquake resistant? If some information in this respect, as reported, having been shared with the National Disaster Management Authority in respect of hundreds of vulnerable existing buildings in the UT, what measures further have been taken in this regard? Moreover, otherwise why are vital issues like awareness, emergency response, preparedness and the like concerning earthquake management appearing to be as non-issues as nothing about those is shared with the public by the Government. The Government and the administration must, therefore, take the issue in all its seriousness as a natural calamity like an earthquake strikes with no regard for anything like when, where, how much and how long.