Citizens' Issues
Thirty-eight Indian cities in high risk earthquakes zones
The earthquake that devastated Nepal on saturday and jolted northern India, damaging buildings as far apart as Agra and Siliguri, was expected by geologists, who have warned of more Himalayan earthquakes
 
At least 38 Indian cities lie in high-risk seismic zones and nearly 60 percent of the subcontinental landmass is vulnerable to earthquakes. Barring rare exceptions, such as the Delhi Metro, India’s hastily-built cities are open to great damage from earthquakes.
 
The earthquake that devastated Nepal on saturday and jolted northern India, damaging buildings as far apart as Agra and Siliguri, was expected by geologists, who have warned of more Himalayan earthquakes caused by the growing pressures of the sub-continent grinding into the Asian mainland.
 
Very few buildings in India meet the standards prescribed in "Indian Standards Criteria for Earthquake Resistant Design" - first published by the Bureau of Indian Standards in 1962, the latest revision being in 2005. These are not enforced, so almost no one knows such earthquake-resistant standards and guidelines for home-owners exist.
 
 
The Delhi Metro is one of the few Indian structures built to withstand a quake. Many of the houses built in Bhuj after the Gujarat quake of 2001 are now earthquake-resistant. The rare building and high-rise may be designed for quakes.
 
But nothing has changed since 1993, when a relatively milder earthquake of magnitude 6.4 in Maharashtra’s Latur district killed nearly 10,000 people in what was considered a non-seismic zone. Most died because shoddily constructed houses collapsed at the first major shake, as they did in Gujarat eight years later.
 
The government of India today lists 38 cities in moderate to high-risk seismic zones. “Typically, the majority of the constructions in these cities are not earthquake-resistant,” notes a 2006 report written by the United Nations for the ministry of home affairs. “Therefore in the event of an earthquake, one of these cities would become a major disaster.”
 
The earth’s landmasses ride like gigantic rafts on "plates", or sections of the earth’s outermost layer, the crust. These plates frequently slip and slide, causing earthquakes. We don’t feel the small ones. The big ones, literally, shake us up.
 
The Himalayas and north India are on particularly shaky ground. Sometime in the geological past, before humans, India broke off from an ancient supercontinent called Gondwana, a name still used for what is now Chhattisgarh.
 
The Indian plate skewed north, displaced an ancient sea, travelled more than 2,000 km - the fastest a plate has ever moved - and slammed into the Eurasian plate, creating the Himalayas.
 
India still grinds northeast into Asia at roughly 5 cm every year. The last significant - but not geologically significant - quake in this area was the 2005 temblor in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, which sits directly atop the clashing Indian and Eurasian plates. Around 80,000 people died. 
 
About 60 percent of India is vulnerable to earthquakes caused by the great, northward grind of the Indian subcontinental landmass.
 
The only serious earthquake that modern India remembers is the temblor that killed about 20,000 in Gujarat in 2001. The 2004 tsunami, which resulted from the third-most most severe quake ever recorded, 9.3 on the Richter scale, occurred when the Indian plate slid with greater violence than it normally does under the neighbouring Burma plate, upon which rest the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. 
 
It caused a 100-km-long rupture in the crust, thrusting the seafloor upwards and pushing up masses of water, setting off tsunamis that killed 230,000 people in 14 countries.
 
No Indian metropolis has witnessed a serious earthquake, although Delhi lies in high-risk Seismic Zone 4. Srinagar and Guwahati are in the highest-risk Zone 5, and Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata lie in Zone 3. History serves a warning that a big one may come at any time. Those lessons come from Bihar in 1934 and Assam in 1950.
 
Although its epicentre was 10 km south of Mount Everest, the Bihar earthquake of 1934 was felt from Mumbai to Lhasa, flattening almost all major buildings in many Bihar districts and damaging many in Calcutta, now Kolkata. At 8.4 on the Richter scale, it was pretty severe, killing more than 8,100 (Mahatma Gandhi said it was punishment for the sin of untouchability).
 
The 1950 Assam earthquake may have geologically set the stage for a really big one in the Himalayas, according to geologists. Now that 65 years have passed, it may be time for a big one.

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COMMENTS

M S Prabhakar

2 years ago

"...Very few buildings in India meet the standards prescribed in "Indian Standards Criteria for Earthquake Resistant Design" - first published by the Bureau of Indian Standards in 1962, the latest revision being in 2005. These are not enforced, so almost no one knows such earthquake-resistant standards and guidelines for home-owners exist..."

This is a very worrying statement and I wonder if the author(s) have any basis or done any research to substantiate. To my knowledge, every municipal corporation in India has to certify buildings and structures for conformance to "National Building Code of India, 2005", before they are certified as fit occupation or other use. If the author(s) are referring to unauthorized structures and buildings, it's a different story altogether.

In any case, if the general public want to know about this comprehensive standard -- not just for design against the effects of eathquake -- here's the link: http://goo.gl/87vLQo

Government warns against rumours; Rajya Sabha condoles deaths
People should not believe rumours about earthquake that are being spread through social media and messages, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Monday as the Rajya Sabha condoled the deaths in Nepal.
 
"There are messages coming on social media that at 9 p.m. earthquake would come, or at 8 p.m. earthquake would come," Prasad said in the Rajya Sabha.
 
"Such rumours should be ignored. There is no basis to it, and if there is some authentic information, government will act on it," he said.
 
Rumours have been afloat on social media and through messages giving time for a "predicted" earthquake.
 
The Rajya Sabha condoled the deaths in earthquake in Nepal and expressed commitment on Indian side to help people of Nepal.
 
Members also appreciated the government's efforts for the relief and rescue work.
 
Over 2,600 reportedly lost life and more than 5,000 were injured when a massive earthquake 7.9 on Richter scale struck Nepal followed by a series of aftershocks, causing extensive damage to life and property.
 
Rajya Sabha Chairman M. Hamid Ansari said the house stands in solidarity with the "friendly people of Nepal".
 
"The earthquake in Nepal caused huge devastation. India is willing to help and we have taken immediate action," Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said as the issue was raised in the house.
 
Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien pointed that "no politics" should be brought in as members speak on the issue.
 
Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Ram Gopal Yadav said: "The loss is unimaginable".
 
He added that Uttar Pradesh has deployed several buses to get people out from Nepal.
 
Trinamool Congress leader Derek O'Brien said the government should fill the vacancies in the National Disaster Management Authority.
 
Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad cited the friendly relations with Nepal and shared the grief.
 
"The government needs to be vigilant as many parts of the country are on the seismic zone," he added.
 
"There should be state- and district-level disaster management arrangements," he said.
 
Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati appreciated the government's quick reaction to the disaster, which also hit parts of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
 
Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Sitaram Yechury suggested MPs should make a contribution towards sending relief.
 
Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut also suggested that MPs can use their MPLAD funds to provide assistance in building hospitals, schools and roads in quake-affected areas.

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Campaigns against unethical cosmetic products ads
Two campaigns have been launched in Delhi against unethical and misleading advertisements of cosmetic products, skincare experts said on Monday.
 
'Swachh Twacha' and 'Chalein Gaon Ki Aur' have been launched by the Indian Association of Dermatologists, Venereologists and Leprologists (IADVL). It would raise awareness against the social stigma related to skin diseases in the society.
 
"The issue of removing fake concepts of cosmetics to overcome skin diseases, including leprosy and vitiligo, especially in rural areas and villages, have become important. People were being misled through anti-ageing and anti-marks advertisements," said Rohit Batra, IADVL joint secretary.
 
Batra is also a senior dermatologist at the Delhi-based Sir Ganga Ram Hospital.
 
IADVL president Venkatraman Mysore said: "The 'Chalein Gaon Ki Aur' is an initiative to conduct skin health camps in villages, schools and rural areas where people do not have access to good dermatologists."
 
"People should not get influenced by advertisements of skincare products shown on TV," he said. 
 
It will soon launch a mobile app to provide access to skincare for people in remote areas, according to the IADVL.
 
Venkatraman urged the government to form strict regulatory mechanisms and implement laws to stop the racket of organised quackery prevalent in the medical profession.
 
He said that due to mushrooming of uncertified skincare clinics, dermatological, laser and skincare-related malpractices were rampant.

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