Quake alarm bells in Kashmir

Quake alarm bells in Kashmir

Experts in Srinagar have voiced concern over the structural safety of buildings, including hospitals and schools, in the Kashmir valley in the wake of the widespread death and destruction caused by the recent quake in Nepal.

Sources told Deccan Herald that the government has not yet worked out any preparatory plan for rescue or risk reduction of building collapse on a massive scale in the event of an earthquake. Neither has it as yet done any seismic survey on buildings in Kashmir.

“After the devastating 2005 earthquake, which led to widespread death and destruction on both sides of Line of Control in Kashmir, the government took some initiatives but it has made no progress so far in drawing up the plan mainly because of resource constraints,” they said. Preparedness and disaster management require huge resources and the government has no designated funds for the purpose apart from that it is taking a long time to draw up a plan, they added.

The high magnitude earthquake that shook Nepal last month has come as a grim reminder to people in Kashmir with a large part of the state falling under Seismic Zone IV and V.

After the 2005 temblor, the state government had devised a Disaster Management Policy to be implemented in every district under the R&B Department, Urban Local Bodies (ULB) and Srinagar Municipal Corporations (SMC). It said all new buildings - schools, colleges, hospitals - shall be compulsorily made earthquake-resistant before handing over the building to the concerned department. Ironically, the policy has not been implemented so far making the population more vulnerable to disaster.

“Even hospitals and school buildings have been constructed without a seismic survey. This will multiply the causalities as unsafe structures will fall on people even in case of tremors,” the experts said. The draft policy had also recommended the retrofitting of old buildings, by introducing supportive structures for their compliance with seismic Zone-V needs. The non-compliance of both government and private sector builders with the building code makes Kashmir and especially Srinagar vulnerable to disasters.

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