Nepal Earthquake and Human Safety

By | May 3, 2015

Nepal Earthquake

The recent Nepal Earthquake has once more drawn the attention of the entire humanity. In a matter of seconds, thousands of lives were lost and others who survived would go through an endless agony of having lost everything.

The tragedy after Nepal earthquake happened because new technologies to make habitats were applied mindlessly without due cautions to methodology of resisting earthquakes. It is noteworthy that while designing structures various loads i.e. Imposed loads, wind loads, seismic loads, snow loads and other loads are minimum working loads which should be taken into consideration for the purpose of structural design.

Nepal Earthquake: Who is Responsible?

No authority responsible for sanctioning drawings for any type of building, business dwelling, educational, industrial, institutional or office, mercantile, residential, or storage, should get approval, until its structure is designed by a competent structural engineer, who has factored in all the loads to achieve resistance in any eventuality, including earthquake.

In the critical seismic zones like zones IV and V, no building should be allowed to be occupied till a designated authority for structural safety has certified it. To avoid harassment and red tape, any registered structural engineer for the purpose should certify that structure as designed and executed in a manner addressing impact allowance. Avoiding the same should be made to attract the harshest penal provisions as public lives are endangered.

In South Asia, after Bhuj, this is the largest catastrophe in the entire region. With abysmal quality of disaster management techniques and inadequate medical facilities and response, it becomes imperative that measures prescribed by earthquake engineering should be strictly adhered to as we have witnessed that in the eventuality of an earthquake, any structure can act worse than any weapon.

It is noteworthy that earthquake engineering takes into account maximum considered earthquake model mass, model participation factor, modes of vibration, mode shape co-efficient, natural period and other such parameters including response reduction factor, response spectrum, and structural response factors. Further, structural engineers take into consideration tectonic features, natural geological formations in the bedrock in the earth’s crust revealing regions characterized by structural features, such as dislocation, distortion, faults, folding, thrusts, volcanoes, with their age of formation, which are directly involved in the earths movement or quake resulting in the above earlier mentioned consequences. To achieve this, dynamic response of the structure, attach increment of time, when its base is subjected to a specific ground motion time history. Zone factor is another important criteria to obtain the design spectrum depending on the perceived maximum seismic risk, characterized by maximum considered earthquake in the zone in which the structure id located.

Once a competent engineer designs a structure with the help of highly evolved softwares, another challenge comes on, i.e., to select the right materials including steel, and design the right concrete mix to execute the structure in accordance with the design, to achieve the stability and resistance in the event of seismic activity. There are many tests including cube tests, UPV, hammer test, core cutting, etc. to see whether the concrete has achieved the required strength as per the required design specifications or not.

If appropriate authorities in Nepal would have ensured the implementation of this complex sounding but rather easy methodology, this enormous human tragedy may have been mitigated to a great extent.

This should at least act as a wake up call for all authorities responsible for granting sections and managing disasters.

SHRIDEV SHARMA’s note to readers: The above extends from my study of the Act, to better understand its objectives, its implementation and impact on the Real Estate industry, the government and society at large. It is not, and does not attempt to be an analysis. To read the complete text of the Act, and news about related events, please see Related Links.

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