Nepal tries to raise public awareness on earthquake

11:12, January 18, 2010      

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"If you are building a house, make sure your engineer follows earthquake resistant methods," an engineer, instructed visitors during the 12th Earthquake Safety Day exhibition held in the Nepali capital Kathmandu.

Amrit Man Tuladhar, United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Project Engineer for Earthquake Risk Reduction and Recovery Preparedness Project (ERRRP) was directing the visitors on the exhibition. He was telling them how to build earthquake resistant house to reduce probable risk during earthquake.

Nepal is observing National Earthquake Safety Day on Saturday at the time when whole world got grief for Haiti earthquake tragedy. Meanwhile, experts in Nepal got an instance of Haiti tragedy to illustrate how vulnerable Nepal is through seismic point of view.

"Nepal lies in fifth vulnerable zone of earthquake which means it is in high risk," Tulsi Sitaula, Joint-Secretary of Ministry for National Physical Planning and Work told Xinhua on Sunday.

According to him, there is possibility that Nepal could face great Richter earthquake in future and condition here will be more pathetic than Haiti. "Our capital Kathmandu is one of the most vulnerable urban areas due to unmanaged, unplanned and unsystematic city settlement," he said.

Focusing on fault line cause, Rajanis Ojha, Senior Disaster Risk Reduction Project Coordinator for Red Cross Nepal said that though whole Nepal is in risk, the capital of Kathmandu is in center focus. "Kathmandu is physically more vulnerable," he added.

"Due to the haphazard settlement, there is no way out to rescue people aftermath. People here will die more not because of the seismic activity rather they will die more for not getting rescue facility," Ojha told Xinhua. More than 100,000 people will die in Kathmandu only due to unmanaged city plan, he said.

Drawing the lack of preparedness adopted by the Nepali people and their unawareness, Ojha said that unsystematic drinking water supply, telecommunication plan, electricity and transportation may hinder the rescue and relief supply if an earthquake happen in the capital.

There are 30 bridges in Kathmandu city, and 20 of them are in condition to collapse if earthquake measuring around 7 on the Richter scale jolts the capital, Sitaula said, quoting the study done by National Society For Earthquake Technology-Nepal (NSET) in2000.

Emphasizing the case of Haiti, Ojha said, "Though Haiti had far better managed city settlement than Nepal, it collapsed. We will also die owing to our ill-managed physical structure."

However, realizing this risk and to reduce it, the Nepali government has promulgated "Building Code" law that makes it mandatory for citizens in all 58 municipalities and 20 village development committee to apply quake resistant methods while building their houses.

Though the law was issued five years back, it has been only five months making it mandatory, according to Sitaula. Besides, imposing stern rule while building new houses there is yet another challenge for the Nepali government which is retro fitting of already erected old buildings.

"The ministry is carrying on research study. However, no work regarding retro fitting has been carried out so far to reduce the risk," Sitaula said. Nevertheless, the Nepali government is taking a lead to observe Earthquake Safety Day every year as commemorating day of the Great Nepal-Bihar Earthquake of 1934 as an annual event organized on a sustainable basis since 1999.

The Earthquake Safety Day is observed with a host of activities such as schools children essay, art and poetry competition, national meeting and rally, symposium, earthquake safety exhibition, among others.

The ongoing three-day exhibition was jointly organized by the Ministry of Physical Planning and Works and Ministry of Home Affairs to aware public about preparedness and risk reduction.

Source: Xinhua
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