An­drew Lan­den

Mizzima Business Weekly - - NEWS ROUNDUPS -

Yangon’s pop­u­la­tion looks set to dou­ble within the next thirty years. But as prop­erty de­vel­op­ers rub their hands in an­tic­i­pa­tion, it is cru­cial to keep pub­lic safety at the fore­front and rec­og­nize that Myan­mar’s com­mer­cial hub lies in an area prone to earth­quakes.

As Myan­mar seeks growth and devel­op­ment as the coun­try con­tin­ues to open up, earth­quake ex­perts and dis­as­ter risk con­sul­tants note the im­por­tance of be­ing aware of the dan­gers of a se­ri­ous earth­quake. There are two main is­sues to keep in mind. Firstly, con­struc­tion tech­niques for houses, high-rise build­ings, and for in­fra­struc­ture in­clud­ing bridges and dams, need to take into ac­count the earth­quake threat. And se­condly, own­ers and oc­cu­pants of ex­ist­ing build­ings, par­tic­u­larly colo­nial era prop­erty, need to be­ware of po­ten­tial dan­gers of build­ings that might be in poor re­pair, as well as the ques­tions of how to re­act should a quake strike – in other words, should they try to exit the build­ing or take cover in the build­ing.

Dur­ing the re­cent Earth­quake Fo­rum in Yangon, one of the is­sues raised was how un­pre­dictable though in­evitable earth­quakes are in Myan­mar and in South Asia as a whole.

The un­cer­tainty is a prob­lem. As Jaiganesh Mu­ruge­san, Dis­as­ter Risk Re­duc­tion Spe­cial­ist at the United Na­tions Hu­man Set­tle­ments Pro­gramme, ex­plains, it is hard to pre­dict when the next se­ri­ous earth­quake will hit Myan­mar.

The dan­ger is real and the coun­try is not ef­fec­tively pre­pared, both in terms of in­fra­struc­ture stan­dards and in the nec­es­sary drills on how to re­act.

“Myan­mar has not had any ma­jor dam­ag­ing earth­quake since the mid­dle of the 19th Cen­tury when a quake of 7 on the Richter scale struck,” Mr Mu­ruge­san says. “While the ma­jor­ity of the coun­try is prone to earth­quakes, ex­perts note that there are seis­mic gaps along the Sa­gaing fault where one can ex­pect the next po­ten­tial earth­quake in the range of (7 or 7.5 on the Richter Scale). How­ever, it also de­pends on the re­turn pe­riod. Ex­perts say the re­turn pe­riod of an earth­quake along the Sa­gaing fault varies be­tween 80160 years and on av­er­age 100 years af­ter an earth­quake.”

Even seis­mol­o­gists are un­able to pre­dict when the next “big one” will strike.

“An earth­quake can hap­pen early on or even later than that as earth­quakes can­not be pre­dicted, but they es­ti­mate based on stud­ies,” says Mr Mu­ruge­san.

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