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FEATURED ARTICLE:Lesson from Earthquake

Saturday, 16 March 20130 comments

How much we learnt from 6.9?
Binod Bhattarai
The loss of life and destruction in recent 6.9 earthquakes of September 18th 2011 dramatically emphasize the need for residents of the Himalayan Seismic Zone of Sikkim to prepare further for an earthquake of such magnitude. Despite the fact that this entire Himalayan Ranges of Sikkim falls among the most sensitive earthquake prone areas of the country, haphazard and unplanned buildings and residential construction is going on unchecked in the state. It seems that there is none to check such illegal construction which is extending and open invitation for a major disaster in near future. Not only private parties but the government and semi government agencies have also not followed the norms laid down for the construction by Urban Development and Housing Department. Number of buildings constructed by Public Works Department and other government agencies has openly flouted the norms laid down by the UDHD. It is most surprising that till date town and country planning have failed to initiate any action against defaulters. It is a sad state of affairs that neither Town and Country Planning Authorities nor state government has followed these recommendations and measures suggested by the experts. Most of the building maps approved by the Town Planning Department lack such norms and huge concrete jungles have come up, which can result in big tragedy at any moment.

The stern and majestic landscape of Sikkim with lush green vegetation is fast transforming into a bustling and congested town with high-rise concrete structures. People seem to have been so intoxicated in keeping pace with the growing demand for housing and commercial complex with no consideration of our risk. The growing number of multi-storied buildings built on unstable colluvial slopes and without following building codes suggests that we have not given a damn to seismology as we are increasing our vulnerability every day, every hour.

Some concrete steps need to be taken to modify or diversify the system. Hope it will be done shortly and the plans and designs of buildings will be accepted only after being designed through some competent and well qualified persons to avoid the structural disasters. All structures must be designed and built as per the norms laid by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) codes to reduce the risk as, “Earthquakes don’t kill people, unsafe buildings do”. The preparedness measures must be adopted at all levels of community and administration. An earthquake risk reduction program should be carried out to sensitize the community to preparedness and response. In this way, we can save lives, reduce injuries and property damage, and avoid prolonged disruption of functions.

(Binod Bhattarai is a Doctoral Fellow at Department of Sociology, Pondicherry University, Puducherry and can be reached at

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