the loss of life due to a natural calamity is more visible
and dramatic, the effects on economy and the livelihood
of the survivors often does not get registered on our collective
consciousness. Once the images of the dead people disappear
from the front pages of the newspapers, we tend to forget
all about disaster management and disaster mitigation. Remember
Latur? The devastating Latur earthquake of September 30,
1993 was located in a region considered to be the least
likely Zone I or aseismic zone. We cannot therefore presume
that the possibilities of earthquake occurrence in Hyderabad
are remote. Moreover, the tremors of Latur earthquake in
1993 were felt here, though in smaller intensity. Hyderabad
also experienced the tremors of the 1969 Bhadrachalam earthquake
and mild tremors have hit Hyderabad in October 1994, October
1998 and September 2000.
efforts of the state government at containing the possible
consequences of an earthquake have at best been spasmodic.
For instance, after Latur earthquake there were many in
our state government who talked about the necessity of implementing
earthquake resistant techniques in our construction activity.
What has been the progress on that front? Not much. I am
not a construction expert, but a look at some of the commercial
and residential complexes in Hyderabad will convince anyone
that they are virtual death traps in case of an earthquake.
Let alone earthquake resistant techniques; even some basic
municipal bye-laws are being violated. Minimum distances
between buildings are not being maintained. This will lead
to congestion and compounded damage during an earthquake
as has happened in Gujarat. The residential structures in
the poorer sections of the city are even more vulnerable.
We have to address this appalling situation by various risk
foremost step would be ensuring a rating system for our
construction companies by an independent and impartial organization.
CRISIL has been doing credible work in the financial sector.
Similar models can be examined for our construction industry
also, which will ensure quality and better safety standards.
However, this measure alone is not enough. Hence, we need
to train manpower, such as masons, on a large scale with
focus on earthquake resistant techniques. We have to educate
the public on a host of issues pertaining to natural disasters
on a sustained basis and also convince them that violation
of byelaws would prove costly. And all these measures need
to be institutionalized. A small committee of experts can
consistently monitor the efforts and take timely corrective
action. Finally, many dangerous construction practices get
legitimized due to corrupt administrative practices. Reducing
corruption and facilitating good governance will go a long
way in ensuring a safe city.