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COVER STORY

COVER STORY

 

 

 

complaining that the ministry had uni­laterally shut down the sensor project because it wanted to give it to the min­istry-controlled National Centre for Seismology.

Thakur added, presciently, “Our country will cut a very sorry face if a big earthquake event occurs, as in the present stage of instrumentation we may not get any strong motion record.”

So as scientists all over the coun­try logged in after the quake to look at data, they found there was none. IIT-Roorkee had been told to shut down its project but the new ministry- controlled seismology centre had not taken over yet.

Defending his ministry’s decision, MoES Secretary Shailesh Naik told india today that the IIT project had gone on for 10 years and it was high time it was integrated into a permanent network. “They (IIT Roorkee) should have given me a status report when the project came to an end,” Naik said. “I am not a lawyer that I should check whether integration was done before or after.”

Naik said he was sure that at least “one or two” stations would have still recorded the Nepal earthquake “as their battery life is one year.” He has now ordered a team to be sent to all sta­tions to find out. In any case, he added, data from all 64 seismometers in the Himalayas (there are 82 all over the country) had already been released.

Meanwhile in Shimla, where bureaucratic apathy has combined with political greed to destroy a city once known as the Queen of the hills, a 2013 disaster management plan reveals that 98 per cent of the city will either collapse or suffer substantial damage if an earthquake of 7.5 mag­nitude occurs. According to NDMA consultant R.K. Khanna, at least 25 per cent of Shimla’s population of more than 8 lakh will be killed.

“The National Building Code is a very good one and is constantly being revised,” says architect-planner AGK Menon, “but it is not mandatory. The truth is that 90 per cent of buddings in any city are built without permission.”

Experts rue the fact that India is totally unprepared. “We are building more high-rises on steep inclines even in the Himalayas,” sa^s M.L. Sharma,

 

HoD, Earthquake Engineering, IIT- Roorkee. Seismologist Gahalaut says, “Indians believe that earthquakes hap­pen to other people.”

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ertainly, the lack of resourc­es accounts for a large part of India’s lack of preparedness. California’s advanced ShakeAlert sys­tem gave survivors a grace period of 5-10 seconds when the 2014 Napa Valley earthquake struck. Japan’s early warning systems (see box) meant that the P-waves from the 9 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Sendai in 2011 gave Japan Railways about 12-22 seconds allowing the bullet trains, the Shinkansen, to grind to a halt.

 

About 800 seismometers are oper­ated by the Japan Meteorological Agency, while 3,600 seismic inten­sity meters are operated by local governments. All this information is fed into the Earthquake Phenomena Observation System in Tokyo and Osaka in real-time and disseminated. In contrast, India has placed 72 GPS instruments and 64 seismometers in the Himalayan belt.

Menon, who was involved in the redevelopment of Anjar town, flattened by the 2001 Gujarat earthquake, says, “In an effort to streamline the old town and broaden its streets, several people had been given land on the outskirts. But when I returned a few years later, I found that most people had left their

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