The devastation caused by earthquakes in Turkey should concern us. Tremors have been felt in Meghalaya and the Uttarakhand region around Joshimath and Chamoli in the last three weeks. Furthermore, geologists have predicted a massive earthquakes in the Himalayan state. In this context, we should take the observations made by the Delhi High Court on February 16 very seriously. During a hearing on a petition, the court directed the state government to submit a status report and action plan on the structural safety of buildings in Delhi.
We cannot rely on the courts to ensure that our cities are adequately prepared for an earthquake, even though the court’s concerns are valid and require urgent consideration. A state authority with constrained resources also cannot evaluate a city’s buildings in a matter of weeks. The court’s worries about the vulnerability of over 58 percent of the Indian subcontinent to earthquakes require a policy response instead.
At the moment, India’s earthquakes preparedness strategy mostly affects structural specifics. This includes detailing the sizes of the structural members, such as columns and beams, as well as the specifics of the reinforcements used to connect these elements. This perspective on earthquakes readiness is narrow, although being grounded in science.
First of all, it disregards structures built prior to the publication of such codes in 1962. These structures make up a sizable portion of our cities. Second, it relies solely on penalties and illegalities in the enforcement mechanisms, supposing their infallibility. Thirdly, it regards earthquakes as an issue with specific structures, as if they exist and function entirely independently from the rest of the urban environment.
The fact is that buildings are grouped together and react as a unit during an earthquakes. They collapse on neighbouring structures and adjacent streets, causing damage to structures that could have survived otherwise and obstructing escape routes. As a result, both the scale of individual buildings and the scale of entire cities must be considered in earthquakes preparedness.Join
Furthermore, we need to consider it from the perspective of policy rather than merely legal compliance.We need to develop a method for adapting old structures and more effectively enforcing seismic rules at the scale of building details. Even while there have been political discussions and sporadic retrofitting initiatives, we still don’t have a complete policy.
Two steps should be included in such a policy. The first step is to establish a system of tax- or development-rights-based incentives for seismic retrofitting. A system of incentives like this will promote the development of the retrofitting industry and create a pool of qualified individuals and organisations. And second, by using a similar strategy to ensure greater enforcement of seismic codes.
The 2014-launched National Retrofitting Initiative was a start in the right direction. The Reserve Bank of India gave banks instructions to refuse loans under the programme for any construction work that does not adhere to the requirements of earthquake-resistant design. Yet, carrots will be more effective than sticks.
In this sense, examples from Japan and San Francisco are useful. Japan has made significant investments in technological solutions to lessen the damage caused by the many earthquakes it experiences. To lessen the effects of tremors, skyscrapers are constructed with counterweights and other high-tech features. Tiny homes are constructed on flexible foundations, and automated triggers that stop power, gas, and water lines during earthquakes are integrated into the public infrastructure. The development of an earthquake mitigation sector and the development of knowledge have led to all of this.
Another well-known earthquakes-prone city in the globe, San Francisco, was destroyed by an earthquakes in April 1906. At than 3,000 people died in the city, and a great deal of property was destroyed. After the disaster, San Francisco adopted policy reforms akin to those in Japan, and when the next significant earthquakes struck in 1989, the city only reported 63 fatalities.Cities-sized, the issue is more complicated, significant, and ignored. None of the urban renewal initiatives, not even the most recent Smart Cities Mission, have developed an earthquakes preparation urban policy.
Surveys and audits that can produce maps of earthquakes susceptibility indicating areas of the city that are more vulnerable to severe damage should be the first step in an urban-level policy. This needs to meet four requirements. The percentage of vulnerable structures in the area comes first, followed by the accessibility of escape routes and the distances to the closest open spaces, the density of the urban fabric, the location of the closest relief facilities, and the speed with which these facilities can reach the affected areas.
These maps allow for the proportional distribution of enforcement, incentives, and reaction centres throughout the urban environment. An exercise like this that has been successful in terms of prompt evacuation and effective implementation is the mapping of flood zones.
But let’s avoid being naive. A bold, radical, and transformational strategy will be necessary to create an earthquakes preparedness policy.
Initially, some parts will still be beyond repair, such as crowded historic city centres. Either surgical retrofitting or altered town planning strategies will be necessary. These strategies are unlikely to be effective since the former is unreliable and the latter is politically suicide and harmful to history.
Second, humans have denied these threats throughout time and space, so we lack the political will to bring about these changes. Until recently, earthquakes were not considered a serious hazard to life. For instance, the Gujarat government swiftly implemented new urban planning strategies following the 2001 Bhuj earthquakes, widening roadways and establishing pathways for relief efforts. The Turkish government has detained contractors for constructing dangerous structures while denying its own guilt. the same builders who up until the earthquakes were working under government supervision.
Governments and politicians ought to be aware enough not to take haphazard actions. An significant opportunity for worldwide information sharing on earthquakes preparedness is provided by programmes like the continuing Urban 20 conference.
Both the American and Japanese delegations are members of the U20, so we must take use of this situation to incorporate earthquakes preparedness into our U20 agenda and learn from them. The directives from the Delhi High Court should serve as a reminder to include an earthquake preparedness policy in urban regeneration initiatives like the Smart Cities Initiative. Waiting for another earthquakes to learn how to be more earthquakes-prepared is not a prudent course of action.