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Apr 17, 2013 at 06:47pm IST

Infrastructure for earthquake response is scanty: Maj Gen Raj Kaushal

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) was set up with the express mandate to chalk out a response strategy to large-scale natural or man-made disasters. But with the abnormal growth of the cities, with rampant unplanned construction, are India's metro cities sitting ducks in case a large earthquake struck one of them? Maj. Gen. Raj Kaushal, Senior specialist, policy and plans, National Disaster Management Authority, joined IBNLive readers for an interaction on the issue.

Q. How prepared are the local authorities and essential services when calamity strikes? Is there a periodic review and mock drills for such disasters? Asked by: Emat

A. After the disaster management act 2005 has come into play various states and metropolitans have started making the disaster management plans, conduct mock-drills and institute capacity building measures for disaster resilience. Disaster management is a journey and not a destination. You always fall short of what is desired.

Infrastructure for earthquake response is scanty: Maj Gen Raj Kaushal

Are Indian cities ready to tackle a large-scale natural disaster?

Q. Has the NDMA taken full details of Gujarat EQ,Mumbai floods, east Coast Tsunami, Terror blasts,and analysed the cause and suggested remedial measures to have a check for future such events? Asked by: sundar1950in

A. Various case studies have been instituted to check the cause and effects of these calamities. However, since the disaster management is a state subject and concerns with the revenue dept. the details of these disasters are available at that level. We have gone past the level of analysis and have instituted specific measures like Tsunami early warning systems, mega mock-drills and simulation exercises for Earthquakes and measures to be initiated for Urban flooding.

Q. Isn't it easier to prevent disasters, if we citizens also play active part and alert concerned immediately in case of the slightest doubt. Why isn't this aspect given any importance? Even our new channels blame govt, but don't stress or educate people on the importance of their being alert to such calamity? Asked by: Narayan

A. I could not agree with you more. An aware citizen is a prepared citizen. Electronic and print media can do a lot to generate this awareness. Our Education institutions have also to be co opted in this campaign. We must ammulate our neighbouring country Bangladesh in this respect.

Q. The Army has been many a times called to manage the disaster situations. For a large country like ours should we not have an exclusive force to be put in operations for such situations? Asked by: sundar1950in

A. We already have raised 12 national disaster response force battalions for specialized response. We cannot afford to have any more resources earmarked exclusively for disaster management. Response from the armed forces is always superlative but what they lack is proper equipment. We must allocate funds to the Regional Commands to purchase the essential equipment and relief stores.

Q. The experience in Gujarat earthquake shows that it was mostly residential constructions in posh areas of the city which bore the brunt of damages. It was due to violations of all building norms and greediness of the builders. The Urban development ministry has no provision to date, prevent a future repeat of such catastrophe. It is not the poor and uneducated but the rich and educated who put to risk the lives of others. Who needs to act? Asked by: sundar1950in

A. This is a statement of facts. All the builders are not greedy and unscrupulous. It is a known fact that the poorer countries are highly prone to corruption and the building industry is not insulated from this social trend. What we need is not the new laws but compliance mechanism. Can we hope to have one?

Q. Are India's metro cities sitting ducks in case a large earthquake struck one of them? Asked by: yamini

A. Earthquakes are the disasters which can neither be prevented nor predicted. Our cities have large amount of vulnerabilities and are over populated. Infrastructure for response is rather outdated and scanty. In leave the rest for you to guess.

Q. Natural calamities also called as act of god is rightly questioned on it's nomenclature in the film OMG. The disaster or loss to us happens, because of the human beings deficiencies in going against nature. Can we not term these perils as act of devils? Asked by: sundar1950in

A. I will not go into the semantics of disasters. But what I can say is that hazards can be induced due to natural phenomenon and may not be prevented but disasters are mostly preventable and to that an extent can be termed as an act of devil.

Q. The mega cities in spite of frequent experiences of severe rain or storm have not bothered to learn by experience and have ill maintained drainage system. They do not have the infrastructure to attend to emergencies. Mind you this is where the elite, academicians, administrators, top brains and top politicos stay. Why this apathy? Asked by: sundar1950in

A. This question should be rightly addressed to those who are responsible for maintenance and upkeep of civil amenities. However, we as a civil society also lack the sense of accountability and participation. The state of garbage collections in our various cities tell us to what low levels we have fallen in this domain.

Q. Are we safe in India? We mean the common man in India, because I know here celebrities and netas are very safe here... Asked by: Sanjeev

A. This question does not directly relate to disaster management and can also not be answered as an off the cuff remark. There could be many parameters which would need to be measured to access the safety of an individual.

Q. Before buying a new house, what things need to checked reg earthquake resistance? Is ground floor or first floor more safe? Asked by: yamini

A. Before buying the house there are a few parameters which are needed to be checked: A) Composition of the soil. B) Thickness of the columns and the slabs. C) A non structural fittings.

Q. Sir, Do we have a formal training system for disaster management in India ? Asked by: Anish

A. Yes, the trend is catching on and there are a number of universities which offer MBA and masters courses in Disaster Management. UGC has also recognized disaster management as part of there undergraduate curriculum.

Q. What should a person facing a earthquake do if he is in office or home? Asked by: yamini

A. 1) Immediately perform duck hold and cover drill to do not rush out in panic. 2) Turn off gas connections and water connections. 3) Evacuation drill must be performed without panic.

Q. Man made disaster of terror looms large and can strike at any place. Essentially the targets are crowded localities and financial centers or place of worship. Since the focus areas are identifiable why does the administration lacks radical in approach to investing in security scanning of these places. ? Asked by: sundar1950in

A. Such a question can be better answered by a Law enforcement agency.

Q. Sir, can you suggest what kind of certificate we should ask from the builder reg earthquake resistance or which specialist we should contact? Also whether upper ground or first floor is safe? Asked by: yamini

A. Earthquake resilient certificate can only be given by a structural engineer and an architect. Before you invest in a property you must get an independent assessment done by these specialists.

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