India issues earthquake management guidelines
After year-long deliberations, India has issued comprehensive guidelines for earthquake management. Amongst other things. the guidelines issued by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) here called for an urgent revision of the seismic zone map to reflect returnperiod-related design accelerations. It also asked for the introduction of license requirements for masons, carpenters and engineers to ensure only experts handle building construction.
Almost 59 per cent of Indian land is under threat of moderate to severe earthquakes. During the last 15 years earthquakes have claimed more than 20,000 lives in the country. Former army chief and NDMA Vice Chairman Gen (Retd.) N C Vij said that over 300 internationally recognised earthquake management experts have been preparing these guidelines after extensive consultations with stakeholders. India had already enacted a Disaster Management law in December 2005.
Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil said the vision was to institutionalise initiatives and activities based on scientific strategies covering pre-earthquake components of prevention, mitigation and preparedness, as well as post earthquake components of emergency response, rehabilitation and recovery. "International experience has shown that the maximum gains from earthquake management efforts are secured by strengthening pre-earthquake preparedness and mitigation efforts," said Patil.
Disaster warning system launched on AIR, DD
Realising that the vast transmitting infrastructure of prasar Bharati can be used to convey emergency messages about natural disasters, limited experimental transmissions of an Emergency Warning Broadcast System have been carried out on medium wave and FM transmitters in Delhi.
Suitable for an Indian environment, it has been developed by the research department of All India Radio and Doordarshan. However, manufacturers will have to provide EWBS ready TV and ready receivers, information and broadcasting minister Priyaranjan Dasmunsi told the Rajya Sabha.
EWBS has been in operation in Japan since 1985, in which emergency messages are transmitted on all transmitters (public/private, digital/analogue) during natural disasters for relaying life-saving information on the preventive measures and for rescue measures.
EWBS ready radio and TV receivers can receive alarm and emergency broadcast signals even in sleep mode.
School kids to be trained in disaster management
To fight any major calamity or accident in the district, the residents will now have a 'First Aid Brigade' for help. In a first, all government and private schools of the district will be divided into a batch of 50 each called the 'First Aid Brigade' and given professional training on first aid and disaster management.
"It was on the orders of Neerja Shekhar, Dep. Commissioner, Panchkula, that the training is being organised in collaboration with the Red Cross Society, Panchkula. At least two teachers from each school were sent for an extensive training at the Sector 15 Red Cross office. These teachers will then train the students", said Sunita Nain, the principal of Government Boys' School, Sector 7, Panchkula. Nain added that the aim of setting up these brigades is to not only make the students equipped with the technique of providing first aid but also to prepare them help in any major calamity or accident that might take place in the district.
Students of classes 6th to 12th from various schools will be given the training. The training will be for a period of one month and be held in the school premises. A fee of Rs 40 per student for classes VI to VIII and Rs 60 for students of classes IX to XII has already been charged along with the admission fee at the beginning of the session.
According to vijaylaxmj, Secretary, Red Cross society, the system was there in all districts but could not be implemented due to a lack of the District Training Officer.
"It is only recently that Ramesh Chaudhary, the District Training Officer, was appointed. Chaudhary trained the teachers at a ten-day session. We have already trained teachers of more than 15 schools and will soon provide training to others also." said Vijaylaxmi.
Quake-proof tag must for home loans
Getting a loan to buy a home will soon become more difficult.
The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), in its new guidelines released ten days ago, says that all home loan applicants will have to provide proof that the house they want to buy is earthquake proof. "Financial institutions will consider the compliance of seismic safety before offering housing loans," the guidelines state.
N Vinod Chandra Menon, member, NDMA, told the Hindustan Times that the NDMA's guidelines would come into effect from June 30. "The Disaster Management Act 2005 was enacted with approval from both Houses of Parliament. The Provisions of the Act are binding on the government," he said.
A policy decision to this effect could, however, take up to nine months. The finance ministry would have to take a policy decision followed by rules to be issued by the Reserve Bank of India.
The finance ministry does not envisage any problems. PP Mitra, economic advisor in the finance ministry, said: "If there is such a recommendation it is definitely welcome. Even the Delhi High Court had said recently that banks while issuing housing loans must ensure that architects certify all properties."
Banks and financial institutions are ready to enforce it too. Charudutta Deshpande, head of corporate communications, ICICI Bank, said: "We give loans against collateral and a requirement like this only strengthens our collateral."