Need to prioritise awareness on earthquake-resistant construction

The massive earthquake that has hit Turkey and Syria hard, leaving a trail of deaths and destruction, holds lessons for the rest of the world, particularly India, which still has no law to enforce the norms for earthquake-resistant construction. Seismologically, India is at high risk, with the subcontinent already having a history of deadly earthquakes. Of particular concern is the 2,500-km-long Himalayan plate boundary, which extends from the northwest to the northeast in a zone with the potential for large quakes with a magnitude of 7 and above on the Richter scale. More importantly, there are identifiable gaps along the Himalayan axis where the historical release of geological tension doesn’t fully account for the strain that might have built up.

The Himalayas came into existence as a result of a collision between the Indian and Eurasian plates. Due to the constant pressure of the Eurasian plate on the Indian plate, strained energy accumulating under it keeps releasing itself from time to time in the form of earthquakes. The entire Himalayan region is highly vulnerable to tremors and the strong possibility of a major earthquake is always there. There is an urgent need to increase public awareness about earthquake-resistant construction. Though the National Building Code, 2016, has specific sections on quake-resistant design and construction, no attempt has been made so far to formulate a law enforcing compliance. According to a study, an estimated 90 percent of buildings in Delhi are at risk of collapsing in case of a strong earthquake. Science is yet to develop tools to accurately predict the timing and intensity of earthquakes. However, there are technologies and strategies available to minimise the loss of lives and damage to properties. They must be prioritised.