HOW PREPARED IS KASHMIR VALLEY FOR HIGH INTENSITY EARTHQUAKES?

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Adeela Hameed

 

There are no proper means to predict earthquakes at present even though it is possible to know the magnitude and intensity with which the earthquake can strike a region with stressed fault lines. Some scientists have developed seismographs that determine the oncoming earthquake a minute to 30 seconds before impact. However, this time interval is insignificant for alerting the population that is to be potentially affected. This technique can, on the other hand, be utilized for those industries or plants which harbour toxic or nuclear raw material. These few seconds can be utilized for disengaging machinery to render the plant inactive.
An earthquake of greater magnitude can, at any rate, cause devastation to the entire complex. Although, it is possible to know the type of earthquake and associated damage depending on the type of boundary, a region’s proximity to water bodies, the presence of nuclear plants nearby, and integrity as well as elevation of structures constructed in a region.

Recommendations

There is a need for a paradigm shift to address disaster management from a relief centric to a multidimensional, preparedness-oriented approach. Most disaster management plans have focused on the post-disaster period of rescue, rehabilitation, and reconstruction (RRR). As the probability of earthquakes occurring in Kashmir valley is high, the authorities need to revise guidelines and strategies, both at the national as well as state levels, to include the prevention of colossal damage at the onset of disaster (mitigation) rather than over-emphasizing rehabilitation of the affected after it strikes.
For the effectiveness of disaster preparedness, mitigation, recovery, and response, the need of the hour is to implement the following measures on a priority basis:

* Safety audit of buildings, in terms of, resilience to the impending hazards and requirement of retrofitting of critical infrastructure.

* Strictly adhere to existing and state-of-the-art building codes, and the constitution of teams for review and enforcement of these codes for government, semi-government, corporation, and private residential buildings completed or under construction in urban and rural areas. Compilation of details of existing contingency plans to deal with disaster and emergency situations.

* Capacity building of stakeholders, service providers, and first and second-line incident respondents with backup mechanisms under SDMA and NDMA.

State Disaster Management Authority: Lack Of Preparedness Doubtful

Although the NDMA act of 2005 lays guidelines for the establishment of Disaster Management Authorities at the national, state, and district levels, no ground evaluation of such authorities is present in the Kashmir region. The State Disaster Management Authority was established in Jammu and Kashmir way back in 2005 and J&K State Disaster Management Policy was ordained in 2011, yet no practical measures have been implemented so far. The authority has acted as a watchdog for natural catastrophes for rescue rather than mitigation and preparedness.
An efficient disaster management and mitigation scheme can only develop through the experiences of all stakeholders participating in the mitigation and preparedness process, not just the government. Although natural calamities cannot be stopped proper strategies and mitigation measures would substantially decrease the level of hazard and damage. So when disaster strikes, all systems would already be properly placed. Earthquakes are chronic to the Valley, as time and again have been researched and experienced. The only preparation for the disaster can ensure our relative safety.

(Adeela Hameed is a writer and Fellow – Himalayan Journalists Collective Against Climate Change)

BLURB

State Disaster Management Authority was established in Jammu and Kashmir in 2005, yet no practical measures have been implemented so far. The authority has acted as a watchdog for natural catastrophes for rescue rather than mitigation and preparedness

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