Srinagar: Lack of disaster preparedness and violation of building codes have created a dangerous situation in Kashmir given its proximity to the high seismic Himalayan region.
For the last 12 years, Jammu and Kashmir has witnessed 164 earthquakes. The latest being the 3.6 magnitude earthquake on Tuesday, which sent people into a tizzy.
This year alone, the valley has witnessed 17 low- to- moderate-to high-intensity earthquakes. Last year 10 tremblors were recorded by the National Centre of Seismology.
With Kashmir falling under seismic zone V, the non-implementation of the National Disaster Act and violation of relevant laws are posing threat to life and property.
Experts say that lack of preparedness at the individual, community and government level were increasing the vulnerability to tackle the natural disasters.
“At an individual level, no one is ready to make an earthquake-resistant building. At the community level, our NGOs and religious leaders hardly talk about these issues. The government too has not prioritized these issues despite the fact that we have a National Disaster Management and State Disaster Management Act in place,” said Prof Shakil Ahmad Romshoo, an earth sciences expert and Dean Research at Kashmir University said.
Prof Ramshoo noted that there is a need to conduct an earthquake resistance safety audit to transform Kashmir into a disaster cultured society.
“Apart from awareness, the realization is also needed. The building plan should be issued by the municipal corporation only when earthquake resistance parameters are met. Disaster management should be a part of the curriculum,” Romshoosaid.
Kashmir witnessed one of the deadly earthquakes in 2005. More than 1500 people died and over 4, 50,000 building collapsed, as per the Earthquake Disaster Risk Index Report 2019.
Post-2005, the frequency of earthquakes in Kashmir has increased and till now 164 jolts have been reported in the valley.
In 2017, 19 earthquakes were reported in Kashmir compared to nine in 2016. In 2015, 27 tremors were witnessed. It included 7.5 magnitude tremblor on October 26 that year that left three people dead.
In 2014, 2013, 2012, and 2011, the valley recorded 19, 25, 11 and seven tremors respectively. The year 2010 and 2009 witnessed six and nine earthquakes respectively.
Director, Disaster Management, Amir Ali admitted that the building by-laws are being violated. “Our building stock needs to be earthquake resistant. For that building codes need to be revamped. We have a Jhelum Tawi Flood Recovery Project funded by World Bank and activities are going on to modify building codes,” he said.
Ali said under the National Disaster Management Act, the earthquake-resistant laws have to be followed in letter and spirit.
“Till now, all norms other than earthquake resistance laws have been overlooked. We are in communication with the Housing and Urban Development Department to introduce a concept of site engineers on call for every building coming up in cities and towns” he said.
The director disaster management said technical and awareness knowledge is being imparted to professionals and local populace under the National Earthquake Mitigation Scheme.
“We held programmes to train masons in building earthquake resistant structures. Under the scheme, lifeline buildings are identified in every district. Estimation is made for retro-filling to turn them into earthquake-resistant buildings,” he said.