Unscientific structures led to tragedy

Unscientific structures led to tragedy

The tragedy in Uttarakhand could have been avoided to a large extent, if scores of private builders in the Alaknanda and Mandakini valley had stuck to the well-researched building codes developed by scientists.

In a poorly regulated atmosphere, hotel owners and builders created multi-storied buildings without soil testing and with inappropriate foundation.

For attracting tourists, many such hotels were constructed on the river banks.

“Had they tested the soil, they would have known its strength and could take steps to impart stability to the structure. But private contractors don't go into such details.
Instead they keep on adding floors,” S K Bhattacharaya, director of Central Building Research Institute, Roorkie told Deccan Herald.

Years of research at CBRI led to development of these Bureau of Indian Standards building codes, whose adherence ensure building safety.

But rampant unsafe construction on the river banks and mountain slopes led to houses being washed off as card board houses.

Climate modelling studies in the past predicted more spells of intense rainfall and frequent instances of extreme rainfall in summer and decline in winter rainfall. This prediction, says geologist K S Valdiya, is coming true, particularly in central Himalaya, where there is pronounced decline in winter precipitation (both rain and snow) and prolonged spells of drought in summer broken by cloudbursts in localized areas.
In other words, this means, flood hazards are here to stay.

Vulnerable area

Rapidly changing land use pattern has made the area vulnerable.

 Expanding urbanisation, increasing industrialisation, coupled with unchecked population growth have resulted in indiscriminate occupation that obstructs the flood ways in practically all Indian floodplains including those in the hills.

Structural strength

All kinds of construction such as residential buildings, commercial and industrial complexes, road embankments and bridges impede the free flow of floodwater moving in its own waterway, Valdiya, a senior scientist at Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Bangalore,  wrote in “Current Science” in 2011. “But most of the buildings lack minimum structural strength. Buildings can be designed to withstand flash floods. But unfortunately what is taught is not implemented. It will be a good idea to have a relook at structural safety of surviving buildings,” said Bhattacharaya.

Since people unknowingly and indiscriminately occupy the natural waterways of rivers, they must pay the price for coming in the way of the furious flow of rivers in spate, said Valdiya.

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