Radix -The Gujarat earthquake


bd14519_1.gif (968 bytes) “Facing Up to the Storm. How local communities can cope with disasters: lessons from Orissa and Gujarat” by Tom Palakudiyil and Mary Todd
Publisher: Christian Aid, PO Box 100, London SE1 7RT.
Downloadable from: www.christianaid.org.uk/storm
Hard copies available by calling: 08700 787788.

bd14519_1.gif (968 bytes) ReliefWeb: IFC supports women artisans in India

bd14519_1.gif (968 bytes) The Guardian (UK) 30 January, John Vidal on the DEC Gujarat aid evaluation report: http://www.guardian.co.uk/Archive/Article/0,4273,4345190,00.html

bd14519_1.gif (968 bytes) POST-EARTHQUAKE REHABILITATION IN GUJARAT - 9 MONTHS AFTER. A Field Assessment by, Rohit Jigyasu

bd14519_1.gif (968 bytes) See also Rhetoric and Reality of Post-disaster Rehabilitation after the Latur Earthquake of 1993: A Rejoinder by Krishna S. Vatsa

bd14519_1.gif (968 bytes) And: Disasters, the World Bank and Participation: Relocation Housing after the 1993 Earthquake in Maharashtra, India By Alex Salazar (November 1998) http://groups.yahoo.com/group/GUJARATDEVELOPMENT/message/64


bd14519_1.gif (968 bytes) "We Want Work": Rural Women in the Gujarat Drought and Earthquake by Elaine Enarson May 2001

bd14519_1.gif (968 bytes)  ASSESSMENT OF POST-EARTHQUAKE ACTIONS IN GUJARAT IN THE EYES OF THE MEDIA by Rohit Jigyasu. Download complete file (117kb).

bd14519_1.gif (968 bytes) "Coping with calamity" Times of India Online

bd14519_1.gif (968 bytes) Questions and observations about the Gujarat earthquake: from the outside looking in by Elaine Enarson


bd14519_1.gif (968 bytes) 'FROM 'NATURAL' TO 'CULTURAL' DISASTER: Consequences of Post-earthquake Rehabilitation Process on Cultural Heritage in Marathwada Region, India, by Rohit Jigyasu

bd14519_1.gif (968 bytes) An article on the Gujarat earthquake by Centre for Science and Environment

bd14519_1.gif (968 bytes) Asian Disaster Preparedness Center reports on the Gujarat earthquake

bd14519_1.gif (968 bytes) Gujarat Reconnaissance Team Personal Report, Maureen Fordham

bd14519_1.gif (968 bytes) United Nations Disaster Assessment and Co-ordination (UNDAC) Team Bhuj Final Report 20 February 2001

bd14519_1.gif (968 bytes) Click on these for The Economist; Barry Bearak; Boston Globe; Ravi Sinha; Ben Wisner; Neeta Sharma; Aruna P Sharma; Haresh Shah (opens in a new window).

bd14519_1.gif (968 bytes) Kenneth Hudnut, USGS. CNN Insight, India's Earthquake.

bd14519_1.gif (968 bytes) SEEDS (The Sustainable Environment and Ecological Development Society ): www.seedsindia.org

bd14519_1.gif (968 bytes) ReliefWeb: http://www.reliefweb.int/w/rwb.nsf/480fa8736b88bbc3c12564f6004c8ad5/60c4fbdbfa2a49cdc12569e30055bd73?OpenDocument

bd14519_1.gif (968 bytes) TARU has prepared a comprehensive website on the Gujarat earthquake. The site has scientific information on quakes, details of the Gujarat quake, damage and casualties, relief efforts, details of aid, situation reports, news reports and useful links to other sites. The site also has details on priorities ahead based on established studies of disaster cycles:

bd14519_1.gif (968 bytes) Haresh Shah

THE ECONOMIST (Economist.com): EDITORIALS. 3 February 2001

Gujarat's catastrophe  Back to the top

WHEN earthquakes strike and lives are lost on a terrible scale, a middle way must be found between two kinds of false consolation. One is to imagine that nobody was to blame, to say that "natural disasters" cannot be prevented, and can only be endured. The other is to say that the deaths were all the fault of the system and the people who run it, that everything would have been all right if only the building regulations had been adequate, if the inspectors had not been corrupt,if the rescue services had been properly equipped and prepared, and so forth. The truth is, an earthquake in a country as poor as India is always going to be an unspeakable tragedy. At the same time, there are things that even poor countries can do to save lives in these circumstances - things that they often neglect to do. At the epicentre of the Indian earthquake, some buildings remain intact surrounded by others that have collapsed, demonstrating, as the Turkish earthquake of 1999 also showed, that the design and quality of buildings are crucial. That is the main reason why earthquakes in rich countries kill fewer people than earthquakes in poor ones. The Kobe earthquake of 1995 occurred in one of the most densely populated areas on earth, but still killed "only" 6,400 people, rather than the 20,000 or more being estimated this week to have lost their lives in a remote and relatively unpopulated area of India. The collapse of many of Kobe's older buildings, while newer ones survived, made it clear that the death toll would have been far greater had Japan had not imposed new regulations on the construction of new buildings. But it is not always that simple.

Gujarat has a history of earthquakes, and was known as an area where strict building codes ought to be applied. But the growth of the urban population has seen the construction of many cheap three- and four-storey apartment buildings where corners have been cut. It is not only the private sector that has skimped. Four hundred children were crushed in a public building.

The problem is that the demand for cheap housing is high. Even though Gujarat is one of India's four richest states, with a large middle-class population, poverty at the bottom runs wide and deep. Estimates say that making new buildings earthquake - resistant adds10-25% to the cost: that gives plenty of incentive to economise. Because there has been no catastrophic quake in India for 50 years, the problem has been easy for politicians to ignore. No longer.

Properly enforced rules are needed, and maybe now will be forth coming.

[Experienced engineering consultant, Mr. Tony Gibbs, based in Barbados (tmgibbs@caribsurf.com), comments: "I do not agree with the 10% to 25% additional cost. This can only be the case where the design concept is very unfavourable. If good standards are effectively enforced, designers would soon learn to produce favourable concepts." - - RADIX editors]

Until next time

Given the grave and continuing risks to more highly populated parts of India, such as Delhi (see article "Earthquake in India" on www.economist.com), it is also important that the Indian government and its friends abroad concentrate on reducing risk and speeding their response in the next such emergency. No doubt there is a  limit to what can be done in such poor regions; that does not mean nothing can be done. Too little effort has been spent on pinpointing areas of greatest risk around the country. In fact, some seismologists are saying that the Indian government is making this task needlessly difficult by suppressing data, citing security concerns in border regions.

Other things could be done as well. India lacks a proper rapid- reaction team to deal with such disasters. In Gujarat it proved slow to mobilise the best resource that it does have-one of the world's biggest, and most professional, armies.

Experience suggests that manpower is not a resource that can usefully be provided by other countries. It takes too long for such assistance to arrive. By as little as 12 hours after a serious earthquake, the chances of finding trapped victims alive has fallen to almost nothing. Help has to be local, or at least regional, which in the case of India would require it to co-operate with Pakistan. International money would be much better deployed helping to build up national rapid-response centres in all earthquake-prone areas, as well as supplying aid aimed at helping in the first few days after the quake: food, water, shelter, medicine and doctors.

Predictions suggest that by 2025 more than 5.5 billion people worldwide will live in cities, and a large proportion of them close to regions with seismic hazards. In the next century it is statistically inevitable that powerful earthquakes will assault several large urban areas. The annual fatality rate from quakes is almost certain to rise in the next two decades, the more so if nothing is done. Builders and planners in areas at risk should keep the awful events of recent days in mind.

Copyright © 2001 The Economist

Too True, Buildings Kill: Will India Pay Heed Now?
New York Times, January 31, 2001, p. A3
By Barry Bearak Back to the top

N EW DELHI, Jan. 30 - Many a disaster comes with its own Cassandra, someone whose warnings went unheeded, leaving the grieving to wonder: Why didn't we listen?

In the case of the devastating earthquake on Friday, India can now regretfully dust off the widely neglected "Report of the Expert Group on Natural Disaster Prevention, Preparedness and Mitigation having bearing on Housing and Related Infrastructure." Despite the tongue twister of a title, this three-volume government study, published in 1998, had a simple point to make: "Disasters don't kill people, buildings do." And in India, "The number of unsafe buildings is increasing every day."

The problem is not a lack of construction standards, just an indifference to them, concluded a committee of eminent engineers and scientists, who spent two and a half years working on the painstaking study for the Ministry of Urban Affairs and Employment. "Sadly, our work has been ignored, but that's the way things are in a developing country," said T. N. Gupta, who convened the group for the government. "Preparedness is not the policy in India. We respond to disasters only after they have taken place."

The committee advocated a vast program of "retrofitting" to make buildings less apt to crumble. Its "Guidelines: Improving Earthquake Resistance of Housing" is a how-to book on better ways to mix mortar and inject epoxy and reinforce clay walls with cane poles.

But little of the advice has been heeded. Throughout the state of Gujarat, scene of the current calamity, buildings collapsed in the manner of the best-known clichés: like a house of cards and a ton of bricks. Down went the concrete walls in Ahmedabad, the stone walls in Bhuj, the mud walls of the surrounding villages.

"To be earthquake resistant, you need sufficient knowledge of engineering," Mr. Gupta said. "It's not that hard, but the average mason does not know what to do."

A few sound building principles can make a big difference, he added. "We had an earthquake in Latur that killed 9,700 people," he said. "An earthquake of the same intensity in California killed five."

While compliance with Indian building standards is not mandatory, the authorities must approve construction plans and award stability certificates in places with a population above 5,000, Mr. Gupta said.

"But the people who give the approval have no expertise," he complained. "Anyway, most builders want to do things as cheaply as possible and they can get their plans approved by greasing the right palms."

In small villages, people usually build their own houses. Sometimes, they get the advice of someone with experience in masonry. But homes are rarely made to withstand severe tremors or heavy winds.

The 1998 study is accompanied by a "vulnerability atlas," indicating what parts of India are most prone to earthquakes, cyclones and floods. Most of Gujarat is among the 12 percent of the nation most vulnerable to severe quakes.

Regardless of how much the report's advice has been ignored, it now stands a chance to find an audience.

Today, editorial writers in the nation's newspapers edged aside their sorrow and let loose their anger. The target for this lambasting was a perceived nexus of unscrupulous, slipshod builders and corrupt, negligent politicians.

"Far from taking note of extra reinforcement and proper bonding of pillars and weight-bearing walls, required for extra protection in earthquake zones, most buildings were death traps before people moved into them," said The Statesman.

The Financial Express noted that older sections of Ahmedabad, Gujarat's commercial capital, escaped the quake's full fury while newer sections of the city were flattened because of their inferior buildings. "The bigger tragedy is that a very large number of deaths were avoidable, and happened simply because of a culture of lining of pockets that is especially entrenched in municipal authorities and the building trade," read the editorial.

The Pioneer, another daily, demanded arrests: "Those whose greed caused so many deaths must not be allowed to go scot-free."

Mr. Gupta has observed this new enthusiasm for better construction. But the ardor for reform does not always last much longer than the earthquake's aftershocks, he said.

And then people forget.

El Salvador, India, Buildings That Fall Down / IHT  THE BOSTON GLOBE
Back to the top

Natural disasters - floods, storms, earthquakes - are entirely outside human control. As lethal as those calamities can be, the greater tragedy is that their destructiveness is too often magnified by human failings. The massive tremor that shook western India is yet another cruel example of these failings, since most of the fatalities were the consequence of poorly constructed buildings toppling onto the victims. .The quake struck in a region not known for seismic activity. But several facts point to human error. Chief among them is the widespread disregard of building codes that are lax and out of date in the first place.

Many people must share the blame for such shortcomings. Politicians and bureaucrats failed to update and enforce building codes. Owners and contractors shaved commonsense standards of construction in the rush for profits from a rapidly expanding population. Architects and other professionals failed to warn of the risks associated with these practices.

Pleas of ignorance about the dangers are not to be trusted. Impressive among the buildings that survived were industrial and electric utility structures built to standards designed to protect them - and the investments they represented - from such disasters.

In 1999, 17,000 Turks perished in an earthquake in a region widely known to be seismically active. The political fallout was enormous, as Turks realized that they had been the victims of extremely shoddy construction made possible by gross failure of regulations. The problems become more lethal as populations rise and millions crowd densely in cities. India is only the latest chapter, not the final one. The Boston Globe.

Dr. Ravi Sinha on the Gujarat earthquake

Dr. Ravi Sinha on the Gujarat earthquake
26 January, 2001 Back to the top

Dear Friends,

Even while we are discussing the terrible disaster of El Salvador, we have been visited by a large earthquake earlier today. The earthquake has been estimated between M6.9 and M7.9 by different agencies. The earthquake is centred in the western state of Gujarat and the epicentre was about 20 km from the town of Bhuj.

The earthquake has been felt very extensively with people in Calcutta, Kathmandu and Chennia also feeling the shocks. Incidently, Calcutta and Chennai are both over 2000 km from the epicentre indicating that the shaking for this shallow earthquake (hypocentral depth around 25 km) was very strong.

The meizoseismal area (worst affected) is totally cut off from outside world due to the failure of telecommunication system. Incidently, this isyet another reminder of how vulnerable our lifelines are, an issue that no decision-maker is prepared to think of. An areal survey of Bhuj town (population 150,000) indicates that over 90% of the houses are damaged or have collapsed.

The latest information indicates that the death toll is over 4000. Based on my experience with the construction types in western India, I suspect that the final toll will be much higher. A figure of 8000-10000 sounds much more reasonable considering the construction types and the extent of affect areas.

We are beginning to re-learn the same lessons that were reiterated following the El Salvador event: The governments are not prepared. They directly or indirectly contribute to increase in death by permitting poor
construction quality, There is no concept of mitigation measures. Collapse of communication system cuts off the decision makers from the scene of event etc. It is sickening to see the cycle repeat again and again. This is the 5th major earthquake in the last 10 years. In addition, we have had a few major cyclonic storms. After every event, the TV personalities (newsmen, politicians, experts etc.) make the same noises, and we continue to remain at exactly the same place. Pathetic!!

I intend to visit the earthquake affected area around the middle of next month. This will permit me to observe the structural damages more closely without interfering with the rescue and relief operations. I will endeavour to keep this group informed on the more technical issues of this earthquake disaster not covered by news media.

The on-line editions of some newspapers are carrying extensive coverage of this earthquake. Some of them are http://www.timesofindia.com, http://www.hindustantimes.com, http://www.rediff.com, and http://www.indian-express.com. Several other newspaper sites also have excellent popular coverage of this earthquake.

Yours in grief,

Ravi Sinha, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, IIT, Powai, Mumbai
- 400 076, India
Phone: (91-22)-576-7336, 576-7301.  Fax: (91-22)-572-3480, 576-7302.
email: rsinha@gemini.civil.iitb.ernet.in;   rsinha@civil.iitb.ernet.in

Some Root Causes of Disaster Vulnerability in Gujarat
Ben Wisner, 28 January 2001 Back to the top

The estimated death toll on Sunday (India time) is 15,000. The city of Bhuj is described as "bombed". Six hundred are confirmed dead in Ahmedabad, and this number is bound to increase.

To understand the root causes of such tragedy, one has to look at economic, political, and cultural relations.

Gujarat is an economic power house in India. As such, one sees there in microcosm the enormous gap between rich and poor that characterizes India itself, and the world. Much of this economic growth is linked to global markets. Its successful economy has come at the cost of having to accommodate somewhere a very large population of unskilled labor. These people have migrated there from all over northern India because their lives as landless laborers elsewhere were untenable.

A few years ago a cyclone came out of the Arabian sea and killed 10,000 people in Gujarat. Many of them were such unskilled labor migrants living in makeshift hutment around the coastal ship breaking and scrap metal center.

Gujarat is to be the major beneficiary of the water diverted by all the dams on the controversial Narmada river system (see Arundhati Roy's passional little book, The Cost of Living. London: Flamingo, 1999). It needs this water for irrigation in an attempt to anchor the livelihoods of some desperately poor rural people in its hinterland who have not benefited from the state's economic growth. If it doesn't do something like this, they, too, will move to the cities whose names we are reading in news accounts of the earthquake (Bhuj, Ahmedabad). My guess is that already over the past few years these towns have been sprouting hutments, encroachments, and squatter settlements for this precise reason.

Another "push" from the countryside into these towns -- this perhaps more speculative, but based on inference from other border situations -- is that Indian army defensive operations near the border with Pakistan may have disrupted already fragile livelihoods.

Finally, one must consider the cultural as well as economic and political situation of the tribal (adavasi) people in India generally and in Gujarat in particular. Many of the people who may have been losers and not winners in the growth stimulated by globalization, especially in the isolated northern parts of Gujarat, where the shaking was most extreme, are ethnic minorities. They have received very few government services over the years, tend to be displaced by so-called development projects, and often end up among the poorest of urban squatters when they are displaced.

It is, if brief, regrettably easy to guess the root causes of death and loss by the poor and marginalized in Gujarat. This would leave one to account for the deaths of middle class people in medium rise concrete apartment houses. Here the remarks of Dr. Ravi Sinha are spot on.

On the one hand, there is an aging building stock and lack of maintenance. On the other, some new structures may well have been built without proper adherence to codes and not properly inspected. It is unlikely that the percentage of buildings that are earthquake resistant is any higher in Ahmedabad or Bhuj than it is in Delhi (see the second Hindustan Times article I've pasted below).

Finally, I am struck by the widespread destruction or disruption of lifeline infrastructure: health care, water, electricity, telecommunication, rail communication. This brings me back to one of my themes in the El Salvador essay elsewhere in this web site. There is no lack of knowledge about how to protect infrastructure from earthquakes. In fact, the scientific and technical learning curve, since Kobe lost later and burned uncontrollably in 1995, has been very steep. One has to ask why, in a country as rich in highly accomplished scientists and engineers, steps seem not to have been taken to protect essential infrastructure. As I note in the El Salvador op-ed about the loss of 40% of that country's hospital capacity: WHO and other authorities know how to protect hospitals. There is no reason why the civil hospital in Bhuj needed to collapse on patients and staff!

I hope these remarks are helpful. I hope my colleagues and friends will email asap and disagree with me! Below I have pasted in two articles from the Hindustan Times on line, Sunday, 28 January 2001 http://www.hindustantimes.com.

Two articles from the Hindustan Times on line, Sunday, 28 January 2001 http://www.hindustantimes.com

Quake safety norms non-existent
Neeta Sharma
(New Delhi, January 26) Back to the top

DELHI IS not prepared to face earthquake or any other major natural calamity. The need to enact a law to make earthquake safety norms binding on all buildings in the city is felt every time the disaster strikes. Since the Capital lies in IV seismic zone which is prone to tremors with intensity as eight on the Richter scale, the need is more emergent.

The legislation should include amendments to the Town and Country Planning Act, Master Plan development rules, land use zoning, empowering development authority to exercise necessary control and incorporation of earthquake safety requirements in building bylaws of local bodies, the city government informed the Delhi High Court.

The National Capital Territory (NCT), Urban Development Principal Secretary, Suman Swarup, filed this affidavit following the court's notices to several Central and NCT government agencies directing them to submit replies regarding steps taken to make the buildings in the Capital earthquake proof, following opinion by experts that between 15 to 20 lakh people might perish in Delhi in the event of a strong quake.

The issue was brought before the High Court in a PIL seeking direction to the concerned authorities to take necessary steps to enforce the earthquake safety norms in all the houses in the Capital and its suburbs, especially in high rise buildings.

The city government also said there was need to upgrade the earthquake resistance of the existing buildings, particularly in schools, hospitals, cinema halls, telephone exchanges, water tanks and fire stations.

The NCT government said there was a need for creation of "techno-legal regime" for safety development under which the regulatory agencies had to be given "defined responsibilities" and made accountable for the measures implemented by them. "All housing schemes in the Capital should have mandatory provision of introducing earthquake resistance techniques... And the house owners should be encouraged to strengthen their houses with retrofittings," it said.

Meanwhile, Metrology Director M C Chopra in his affidavit has stated that his department had recently approved a proposal for natural hazard assessment of Himalayas, providing 'sharper focus to some selected aspects of earthquakes'.

The project included setting up of six new seismological observatories in north-eastern region, geotechnical probe of landslides, setting up of composite multi-parameter geophysical laboratories, initiation of Geophysical Research at Allahabad.

Following the Chamoli earthquake, a task force set up by department of science and technology had recommended setting up of an Earthquake Risk Evaluation Centre (EREC) at a strategic location in North India, which would have a multi-disciplinary team of scientists.

The main task of EREC would be to update earth quake prone areas or sites, corresponding seismic hazard and vulnerability maps, the affidavit said.

Very few buildings are earthquake resistant
Aruna P Sharma
(New Delhi, January 26) Back to the top

DELHI, WHICH falls in the second most hazardous seismic zone of the country (zone IV), has very few earthquake resistant buildings which alone can minimise loss of life in the event of a major quake like the one witnessed in Gujarat.

Except government buildings and a small per cent of private buildings, most buildings including multi-storeyed hotels and office buildings do not subscribe to the building code set by the Bureau of Indian Standards for making buildings earthquake resistant.

In the event of a high intensity earthquake in Delhi, these buildings will turn into death traps. According to engineers in the Delhi Development Authority and Municipal Corporation of Delhi, most citizens in Delhi are not safe in their homes because these houses are constructed by builders or architects who do not bother to engage structural engineers. They are the only persons qualified to design and execute buildings which are earthquake resistant.

There are very few qualified engineers in the Capital and even getting the safety analysis done by them for a building project can cost over Rs 1 lakh.

Prof Sharad C Das of School of Planning and Architecture said that it is mostly the Government buildings in the Capital which subscribe to the building code. He said that among the private buildings, not more than 10 per cent are safe. Others do not employ structural engineers as the cost of the building project escalates if they are engaged.

A DDA official said that all buildings and projects of DDA subscribe to BIS code and that software is also now available for making analysis of building designs. He said that earthquake engineering is now a very well developed subject in India thanks to pioneering work done by Rourkee University and that it was high time that
citizens of Delhi are made conscious of the need to engage qualified engineers.

A senior engineer pointed out that structural analysis of a building takes weeks and is a costly affair. For this reason architects and builders who control execution of a building plan, usually engage low paid engineers for completing the project. He asserted that some provision has to be made under the law so that only structural engineers supervise building design and execution in Zone V and Zone IV in the seismic map of the country.


Guardian online, Ben Wisner: http://www.guardianunlimited.co.uk/Archive/Article/0,4273,4128181,00.html

Hindustan Times on line: http://www.hindustantimes.com

India Development and Relief Fund: http://www.idrf.org

Indian Express: http://www.indian-express.com

Times of India: http://www.timesofindia.com


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