Zero Tolerance to avoidable deaths due to earthquakes
To formulate Guidelines for the preparation of plans to reduce earthquake risk, and minimise the impact, loss of lives and damage to property caused by earthquakes
The Disaster Management Act, 2005 (DM Act, 2005) lays down institutional and coordination mechanisms for effective disaster management (DM) at the national, state, and district levels. As mandated by this Act, the Government of India (GoI) created a multi-tiered institutional system consisting of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), headed by the Prime Minister, the State Disaster Management Authorities (SDMAs) by the Chief Ministers and the District Disaster Management Authorities (DDMAs) by the District Collectors and co-chaired by elected representatives of the local authorities of the respective districts. These bodies have been set up to facilitate the paradigm shift from the hitherto relief-centric approach to a more proactive, holistic and integrated approach of strengthening disaster preparedness, mitigation and emergency response.
Soon after the NDMA was set up, a series of consultations were initiated with various stakeholders to facilitate the development of guidelines for strengthening earthquake management. Senior representatives from government departments and agencies, academics, professionals, multilateral and humanitarian agencies and corporate sector representatives participated in these meetings. These meetings acknowledged that several initiatives taken up by government agencies in the recent past have been significant and far-reaching, but they also highlighted the need for a holistic and integrated strategy. On the basis of these deliberations, the NDMA has prepared these Guidelines for the Management of Earthquakes, (hereinafter referred to as the Guidelines), to assist the ministries and departments of the GoI, state governments and other agencies to prepare DM plans.
Earthquake Risk in India
India's high earthquake risk and vulnerability is evident from the fact that about 59 per cent of India's land area could face moderate to severe earthquakes. During the period 1990 to 2006, more than 23,000 lives were lost due to 6 major earthquakes in India, which also caused enormous damage to property and public infrastructure. The occurrence of several devastating earthquakes in areas hitherto considered safe from earthquakes indicates that the built environment in the country is extremely fragile and our ability to prepare ourselves and effectively respond to earthquakes is inadequate. During the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR) observed by the United Nations (UN) in the 1990s, India witnessed several earthquakes like the Uttarkashi earthquake of 1991, the Latur earthquake of 1993, the Jabalpur earthquake of 1997, and the Chamoli earthquake of 1999. These were followed by the Bhuj earthquake of 26 January 2001 and the Jammu & Kashmir earthquake of 8 October 2005.
All these major earthquakes established that the casualties were caused primarily due to the collapse of buildings. However, similar high intensity earthquakes in the United States, Japan, etc., do not lead to such enormous loss of lives, as the structures in these countries are built with structural mitigation measures and earthquake-resistant features. This emphasises the need for strict compliance of town planning bye-laws and earthquake-resistant building codes in India. These Guidelines have been prepared, taking into account an analysis of the critical gaps responsible for accentuating the seismic risk and of factors that would contribute towards seismic risk reduction, to enable various stakeholder agencies to address the critical areas for improving seismic safety in India.