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How to make India earthquake prepared

GS Paper 3

 Syllabus: Disaster Management and Preparedness


Source: IE

 Context: The Delhi HC asked the state government to file a status report and action plan on the structural safety of buildings in Delhi.


Background: Nearly 59% of the Indian landmass is vulnerable to earthquakes and the concerns that have been raised by the court need a policy response.



India’s current policy on earthquake preparedness:

  • Operates primarily at the scale of structural details
  • National Building Codes: Includes specifying dimensions of the structural members – columns, beams, etc.
  • National Retrofitting Programme 2014: Under the programme, the RBI directed banks to deny loans for buildings that do not meet the earthquake-resistant design.


Issues with the policy:

  • It ignores the buildings that were constructed before such codes were published in 1962
  • It assumes infallibility in the processes of enforcement – relying only on penalisation and illegalities
  • It treats earthquakes as a problem of individual buildings – in complete isolation from their urban context.
  • None of the urban renewal programmes – including the Smart Cities Mission – have devised an urban policy for earthquake preparedness


Way ahead:

  • Earthquake preparedness needs to act –
    • In the realm of policy and not just legal enforcement.
    • At the scale of building details as well as that of cities.
  • A comprehensive policy to create a system of retrofitting existing structures and enforcing seismic codes with more efficiency. Such a policy should include measures –
    • To create a system of tax-based or development rights-based incentives for retrofitting one’s building up to seismic codes.
    • To ensure better enforcement of seismic codes through a similar model.
  • Generate earthquake vulnerability maps with the percentage of vulnerable structures in the area, the availability of evacuation routes, the location of nearest relief services, etc.


Best practices (Japan and San Francisco):

  • Japan has invested heavily in technological measures (skyscrapers with counterweights, small houses on flexible foundations, public infrastructure with automated triggers) by cultivating an industry around earthquake mitigation and fostering expertise.
  • San Francisco is the world’s most famous earthquake-prone city which implemented policy changes similar to Japan.
  • The Gujarat government: Immediately adopted (after the 2001 Bhuj earthquake) new town planning schemes that widened roads and created routes for evacuation and relief work.
  • Programmes like the ongoing Urban 20 meetings: An excellent opportunity for international knowledge exchange on earthquake preparedness.


Conclusion: A policy on earthquake preparedness will require a visionary, radical and transformative approach. It would be unwise to wait for another earthquake to learn how to be better prepared for one.


Insta Links:

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