No lesson learnt after devastating earthquake, guidelines remain on paper

No lesson learnt after devastating earthquake, guidelines remain on paperTen years after the devastating earthquake, J&K has learnt no lesson as far as construction of quake-resistant buildings and structures is concerned. Following the deadly earthquake, most safety norms have been flouted not only by the government but the general public as well.

Experts feel that most of the buildings in Kashmir may not withstand a high-magnitude quake like the one that hit Nepal recently, more particularly because Kashmir, including Srinagar, falls in Zone 5 or very severe intensity seismic zone.

Following the 2005 quake, building bylaws were amended, making it mandatory for civic bodies to certify earthquake resistance of structures, both government and private, before issuing permissions.

Laxity over NDMA code

The new constructions were to follow the design parameters as per ‘Code IS-1893’ issued by the Bureau of Indian Standards and approved by the NDMA under its guidelines. It appears that the authorities have a casual approach on guidelines.

“We cannot claim to have any structure in Kashmir, particularly in Srinagar, built after 2005 as earthquake resistant,” said a town planning official.

“We issue building permissions while sticking to specified norms,” said Joint Commissioner, Planning, Srinagar Municipal Corporation, Mushtaq Ahmad.

He admitted that specified norms, particularly those related to safety against quakes, were flouted by people once building permissions were issued.

No traditional architecture

Following the 2005 earthquake, it was observed that most of the old structures with traditional architecture of ‘Taq and Dajji Dewari’ in Uri, Baramulla and Sopore in north Kashmir, where the intensity was severe, suffered less damage compared to newly built concrete structures.

Srinagar-based architect and town planner Mehran Qureshi, who lays emphasis on traditional techniques in his designs, agreed that old structures in Kashmir were quake-resistant to a greater extent as these involved traditional ‘Taq and Dajji Dewari’ style of architecture, in which wooden logs were used along with masonry work in construction.

“These horizontally placed wooden logs reduce the load on walls and act as shock absorbers, particularly during horizontal movement witnessed during earthquake,” Mehran said.

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