Gogoi frets over quake safety

If we fail to take steps, we will be held morally & legally responsible, says CM

Chief minister Tarun Gogoi speaks at the conference in Guwahati on Thursday.

Guwahati, Feb. 25 : When a 6.4-intensity earthquake rattled the Northeast on February 4, the question everybody asked was: Is the region prepared to face a bigger quake?

The answer seems to be “No”.
“We are still not prepared to face a big quake,” Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi said today, while addressing a two-day national workshop on Earthquake Risk Mitigation Strategy in Northeast.
The Northeast falls under zone five — the highest seismic zone — and the authorities are already taking steps to mitigate the impact of earthquakes and prepare for disaster management by way of making plans, conducting training and creating awareness.
The 6.4-intensity quake that rattled homes in the Northeast, though it did not lead to any casualty, forced the authorities to think afresh about measures that would mitigate the impact of high intensity earthquakes.
Talking about the 8.6 magnitude earthquake of 1950, which changed the face of Assam forever with the Brahmaputra changing its course, Gogoi said times had changed and a lot of RCC buildings had come up, heralding the advent of urbanisation. “There were Assam-type houses then,” he said.
The difference is in the impact. An RCC house crumbling during a quake can cause much more harm than the Assam-type thatched house, which is made of lighter material, mostly bamboo.
On the need to implement laws like constructing earthquake-resistant buildings, Gogoi said the building bylaws in Guwahati would have to be compulsorily implemented. This has been emphasised by experts time and again.
“The time has come to create awareness in urban areas as a big quake can strike at any time,” Gogoi said. “If we fail to take steps, we will be held morally and legally responsible,” he added.
The conference, which began today, was attended by seismic experts from all over the country. It has been organised by the National Institute of Disaster Management in association with the Assam State Disaster Management Authority.
The executive director of the National Institute of Disaster Management, P.G. Dhar Chakrabarty, also said a big quake could strike anytime and the region was still not prepared for it.
Reeling off statistics on the intensity of earthquakes in the region in the last century, he said there have been 210 tremors of 5 to 5.9 intensity, 128 tremors of 6 to 6.9 intensity, 15 tremors of 7 to 7.9 intensity and four tremors with an intensity of 8 and above on the Richter scale.
“Technical experts have informed that many of the houses in the Northeast are unsafe and even minor quakes can lead to damages,” he added.
The conference aims to draw a roadmap for formulating a strategy to prepare the region in the event of a big calamity. Experts from the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), ONGC, OIL, and the Airports Authority of India (AAI) will tomorrow present their strategies for dealing with a big quake.
Gogoi also inaugurated a Centre for Excellence for Earthquake Risk Management at the Assam Administrative Staff College where the workshop was held.
A member of the North Eastern Council (NEC), P.P. Shrivastav, said a few years ago, experts had asked the states of the Northeast to implement modern building bylaws but it never happened. He said precursor studies were being undertaken to help predict earthquakes.
Muzzafar Ahmed, a member of the National Institute of Disaster Management, said earthquake risk mitigation measures in the Northeast needed to focus on urban areas. The impact of an earthquake is likely to be more in the cities, which are congested and have a large number of RCC buildings.
The participants today discussed earthquake preparedness, probabilistic scenarios of quakes and its implications for the state’s policies and programmes, and the status of seismic microzonation in the cities of the Northeast.