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Sunday, March 26, 2023

'A start has been made'


ANANDO BHAKTO | Issue Dated: March 25, 2012, New Delhi
Tags : Shashidhar Reddy | vice-chairman of NDMA | earthquake engineering | earthquake in India |
The NDMA says 68 per cent of India’s urban population is in danger because of poorly designed buildings.
There is a big gap between what is required and what is available. Since 2004, plans have been undertaken to make buildings quake-resistant and they have been circulated to states. The states are trying to accommodate these codes, besides revising their own building codes. Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has laid down guidelines to ensure that disaster-resistant features are incorporated in all construction. NDMA is formulating guidelines for the infrastructure sector.
Earthquake engineering is not part of the curriculum in most engineering colleges. How do engineers approve architectural plans then?
We have a big gap here. Some training has been imparted to architects. In the case of Delhi, we are conducting detailed soil investigations and trying to figure out what kind of buildings can be permitted. We will come up with ‘type designs’ which will help people understand whether a particular building has conformed to norms.
Do you plan to seek foreign technical knowhow?
I am told Italy is a country where a lot of work has been done, along with the US and Japan. There is an offer from them to bring in international facilities which will help us introduce quality training in earthquake engineering. We are also looking at programmes to train architects. One of the national institutes of technology in Japan is very keen to collaborate.
How far will the Disaster Management Act 2005 help?
In the aftermath of the Gujarat earthquake, there has been considerable movement on disaster management. The Disaster Management Bill became an Act at end of 2005. The idea was to have an institutional mechanism at the national level. 
The Act stipulates that only the SC and high courts can deal with public grievances against authorities involved in disaster management. Isn't that a flaw?
To get started itself is a very positive thing. We have made a beginning, which will evolve gradually. It is too early to start thinking of lacunae. Over a period of time, however, we may be able to look into that.
Local people in disaster prone areas play an important role in disseminating warning and information. What steps have been taken to involve panchayats and other local bodies?
The whole focus has to be community-based preparedness. We have started a capacity building programme with IGNOU targeting 16,000 people. Seventy-five per cent of them are elected public representatives while the remaining 25 per cent are officials. We also have the National Disaster Response Force, which has grown from two to 12 battalions. This is a stand-alone force which does not do election or law and order duties. During non-disaster time, they will do community work and help build medical relief capacity. 
What about retrofitting buildings?
We are doing a National School Safety Project which will cover 43 schools in 22 states. One school in every district of 22 states will be retrofitted as a model. This will take two years to complete. As for dams, we need to review them to assess whether or not they need retrofitting.
Are you satisfied with rescue operations in Sikkim in the aftermath of the earthquake late last year?
Sikkim presents many challenges due to its topography. But what we achieved was creditable. It is a different matter that we need to streamline our resources. 
How grave would the casualities if a high intensity earthquake hits Delhi today?
There are many factors involved. In Delhi buildings have collapsed even otherwise. From early March we are commencing Rapid Visual Assessment in which about 240 engineers would assess how safe buildings are and classify them.
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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017