‘Why is NDMA keeping quiet’
An earthquake and civil engineering expert says it is ‘unfortunate’ that Nepal follows the Indian Seismic Code
Modern, kitted out with the latest equipment, fancy paint job – it could have been any apartment in Delhi- NCR, but for the cracked walls, fractured beams, overtur ned f ur nit ure and f al l en masonry. The earthquakes in Nepal have caused extensive damage to buildings, many of them highrises and similar to the ones in the Indian Capital.
Sandeep Donald Shah, country head of Miyamoto International, an earthquake and structural engineering firm, is just back from a damage assessment trip to Kathmandu, from where he visited rural areas like Sindhupalchowk, C h a u t a r a a n d G o d ava r i . He checked out “practically all types of buildings.” These ranged f rom moder n RCC framed structures designed and built as per the Indian Seismic Code, brick masonry buildings constructed using cement or mud mortar, rural houses built with stones using cement or mud mortar and also heritage buildings, with mostly load-bearing masonry walls. Damage was extensive and widespread.
Kathmandu “tens of thousands of years ago was a lake bed, and so the soft soil amplified the long period seismic waves which affected tall buildings to a far greater extent. The smaller buildings and temples did not sustain much damage but it was more pronounced in modern high-rise reinforced concrete buildings and ancient heritage large temples.
A f ar bigger risk t oday i s an af t ershock of even a f ar l esser magnitude of s ay 6 o r 6 . 5 , s ay s S h a h . A f o r m e r I n d i a n A r my officer from the Corps of Engineers who did a Master’s i n Ear t hquake and Civil Engineering Dynamics from the University of Sheffield, UK, he says people living in highrises in India and Nepal should be made aware of the risks. Shah is also surprised how the NDMA (National Disaster Management Agency) can remain quiet and not take the leadership role for this.
“They are very quiet after the Nepal disaster despite the Supreme Court vide order dated December 5, 2014, asking them ( NDMA) to implement four specific points.” Shah also alleges that NDMA officials succumbed to pressure from vested interests and “missed that opportunity too.” Archaic codes could have also meant that more buildings were destroyed. “Nepal unfortunately follows the Indian Seismic Code,” Shah adds.
There are two main Indian seismic codes: IS-1893, which has not been updated for 13 years and IS-13920, which has not been updated for 22 years. The existing codes are based on research of the 1960s and are unable to meet the performance standards expected from state-of-the-art building codes. Most of the damaged buildings in these photographs can be repaired and retrofitted. However, in many cases, the cost to do so may be higher than rebuilding t he structure. Shah advises people to go in for a seismic retrofit and upgrade without waiting for quakes to strike.
(To be continued)