Himalayan disaster

Updated - November 16, 2021 05:03 pm IST

Published - April 28, 2015 01:36 am IST

The devastating impact of the >earthquake in Nepal , measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale, could have been mitigated if there was some preparedness for the tragedy beforehand. More than 3,800 people in that country and around 40 people in India are reported to have lost their lives while thousands more are injured. Nepalis were f >orewarned about the possibility of a major earthquake , as the country was located on a geological fault line where tectonic plates were constantly on the move below the earth’s surface. The process was expected to release pent-up energy any time following these intense tectonic shifts. Expectedly and unfortunately, nature’s unleashed fury has resulted in a colossal tragedy, especially in the Kathmandu valley, while there is little news about those affected closer to the epicentre in Lamjung district in the hilly tracts of interior Nepal.

Of the many natural disasters, earthquakes are the most difficult to predict; some experts suggest that it is even impossible to do so. The best of earthquake warning systems, such as the ones installed in Japan, are only capable of warning regional centres about the possible impact of ongoing earthquakes. Yet, there are ways of mitigating disasters — building structures that are relatively quake-resistant, preparing for evacuation by constructing centres specifically for the purpose, and sensitising the public about quakes and their devastating impact. Is it such an impossible task to remain prepared, knowing full well that seismic zones are prone to frequent quakes? Japan, which is a country prone to regular earthquakes, has shown the way on disaster mitigation and preparedness. Unfortunately, in the congested urban settings of developing countries these steps are difficult to implement. Now the need is to help Nepal find its feet in providing relief and rehabilitation to the quake survivors as they brace for more aftershocks, rain and landslips. In this regard, the alacrity of the Indian government, among others, in sending aid to Nepal, and the prompt effort in evacuating Indian citizens are commendable. With governance in Nepal still seemingly a fragile structure given that the Constituent Assembly is yet to conclude its exercises because of the fractious political process, the centralisation of resources in the Kathmandu valley has not helped the government. It would have been better off delegating responsibilities to local government structures, which have been absent for more than a decade in the country. It will be terribly unfortunate if the lessons of this yet-unfolding tragedy are not properly learnt. Meanwhile, our hearts go out to the Nepali people. It is imperative that the flow of international aid be stepped up to help restore the battered Himalayan state.

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