Up to the Storm. How local
communities can cope with disasters: lessons from Orissa and Gujarat” by
Tom Palakudiyil and Mary Todd
Christian Aid, PO Box 100, London SE1 7RT.
Hard copies available by
calling: 08700 787788.
ReliefWeb: IFC supports women artisans
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
POST-EARTHQUAKE REHABILITATION IN GUJARAT - 9 MONTHS AFTER. A Field
Assessment by, Rohit Jigyasu
See also Rhetoric and Reality of Post-disaster
Rehabilitation after the Latur Earthquake of 1993: A Rejoinder by Krishna S. Vatsa
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
INDIA EARTHQUAKE REPORT and PHOTOGRAPHS
"We Want Work": Rural Women
in the Gujarat Drought and Earthquake by Elaine Enarson May 2001
ASSESSMENT OF POST-EARTHQUAKE ACTIONS IN
GUJARAT IN THE EYES OF THE MEDIA by Rohit Jigyasu. Download complete file
calamity" Times of India Online
Questions and observations
about the Gujarat earthquake: from the outside looking in by Elaine Enarson
PROMOTING SOCIAL JUSTICE IN
DISASTER RECONSTRUCTION: GUIDELINES FOR GENDER-SENSITIVE AND COMMUNITY-BASED PLANNING
'FROM 'NATURAL' TO 'CULTURAL' DISASTER: Consequences of
Post-earthquake Rehabilitation Process on Cultural Heritage in Marathwada Region, India,
by Rohit Jigyasu
An article on the Gujarat earthquake by Centre for Science and
Disaster Preparedness Center reports on the Gujarat earthquake
Reconnaissance Team Personal Report, Maureen Fordham
United Nations Disaster Assessment and Co-ordination (UNDAC) Team Bhuj
Final Report 20 February 2001
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).
Kenneth Hudnut, USGS. CNN
Insight, India's Earthquake.
SEEDS (The Sustainable Environment and
Ecological Development Society ): www.seedsindia.org
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
THE ECONOMIST (Economist.com): EDITORIALS. 3
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
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 (email@example.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
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
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
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 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
Dr. Ravi Sinha on the Gujarat earthquake
26 January, 2001 Back to the top
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.
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
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
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
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
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
(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
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
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
Back to the top