India was spared the horrors of the earthquake that caused enormous death and destruction in Iran on Tuesday. However, nearly half of India from Ahmedabad in Gujarat to Nongpoh in Meghalaya was shaken by a ring of earthquakes that scientists say were most likely unrelated but could trigger aftershocks. The scientists also believe that there could be a realignment of the region’s tectonic plates, potentially setting off follow-up earthquakes. It is true that the science of forecasting earthquake is still in its embryonic stage. Nonetheless, the fact that the Iran quake occurred close to the line where the Indian and Euroasian tectonic plates meet, west of Gujarat in Pakistan, cannot be lost sight of.
After all, Latur in Maharashtra and Bhuj in Gujarat, where India experienced two of the worst post-Independence earthquakes, belong to this region, vulnerable to sudden under-the-earth movements. It may be recalled that in Latur more deaths occurred because of the traditional use of boulders in the construction of houses and in Bhuj because of poor construction of multi-storied buildings. Following the Bhuj disaster in 2001, the Centre had set up a national disaster management authority with several states following suit. As a result, earthquake-resistant building codes were developed for use, particularly in quake-prone areas.
But the agencies concerned like the Delhi Development Authority are lax in implementing the code. As the earthquake-resistant building technology comes with a cost, profit-conscious construction companies are hesitant to follow it. Once the construction is complete, few can make out whether the builder had followed the code or not. The only solution is to make such designs non-negotiable for new buildings. There should be constant monitoring to ensure that the technology is followed. India is now witnessing a construction boom. It would be a tragedy if the quake-resistant codes are overlooked. A repeat of the rigours of Bhuj and Latur is what India should avert.