‘Why is NDMA keep­ing quiet’

An earth­quake and civil en­gi­neer­ing ex­pert says it is ‘un­for­tu­nate’ that Nepal fol­lows the In­dian Seis­mic Code

HT Estates - - HTESTATES - Aye­sha Ban­er­jee

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)

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