National Workshop on ‘Earthquake Preparedness in India’, Organised by the Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF) in collaboration with PPF and FICCI, 25-26 Oct 2018
Welcome Remarks by the Director, VIF

Gen N. C. Vij, Former Vice Chairman, NDMA, Sri R. K. Jain, Member–Secretary, NDMA, Sri K. M. Singh, Vice President, PPF, Lt Gen JR Bhardwaj(Retd), Distinguished Speakers, Participants, Media, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to extend a hearty welcome to you to the two-day National Workshop on Earthquake Preparedness in India which is being jointly organized by the VIF in collaboration with Policy Perspective Foundation (PPF) and FICCI. My special thanks to General Vij, former Army Chief and former Founder Vice Chairman of NDMA and Sh KM Singh, Vice President of the PPF and a member of VIF’s Advisory Council, for conceptualizing and organizing this workshop. I appreciate the key support given by FICCI in holding the workshop.

India is highly prone to natural and manmade disasters. These take heavy tolls on human life, society and economy. The geology of Indian sub-continent makes it highly vulnerable to earthquakes. About 59 percent of India’s land mass is vulnerable to earthquakes. In the last three decades, we have seen massive earthquakes in Latur, Jabalpur, Bhuj, Uttar Kashi, J&K and Sikkim in which thousands of people lost their lives. Most of these lives are lost due to the unsafe buildings. Regrettably, the unplanned and haphazard urbanization has multiplied the risk to human lives in many fields. Even a relatively minor earthquake can lead to major human and economic disaster. One shudders to even visualize what impact a major earthquake would have in Delhi and NCR region where buildings continue to collapse even after a minor rainfall. The capability of the emergency services to cope with the aftermath of the earthquake is highly limited.
The effects of 2004 sub-sea earthquake in Indonesia resulted in a massive Tsunami which took over 200,000 lives in several countries including India. The triple disaster of an earthquake, Tsunami and nuclear reactor melt down in Fukushima in Japan in 2011 were stark reminders of the devastating potential of the earthquakes. Just a few weeks ago the Sulawesi region of Indonesia was wracked by an earthquake and Tsunami.

We need to learn from the experience of Japan and other countries. How have they succeeded in minimizing the loss to lives and property? The number of lives claimed in the Japan earthquake in 2011 was in two digits. This was because Japan had prepared itself well to meet such a disaster. The ordinary people there are well aware of how to deal with the situation. Children are taught about the risks of earthquakes in schools. Enforcement is strict. Accountability to failure is fixed. Earthquakes cannot be predicted nor can they be stopped. However, the risk of an earthquake can be reduced. The houses and other infrastructure can be made safe. The overall response to earthquakes can be made quicker and more efficient. Rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts can be better planned.

In 2005, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) was set up followed by State Disaster Management Authorities. This was a positive step. The NDMA came up with exhaustive guidelines for earthquake management in 2007. It would be useful to the review how far these guidelines are being implemented. Can accountability for non-compliance be fixed in our system? Whether they need a fresh look in view of demographic changes and the emergence of new technologies. NGOs and civil society can play a major role in improving earthquake preparedness in India through generating awareness about the risk and instituting suitable policy measures and best practices in earthquake management and governance. The government and the private sector have a major role to play in this regard. Awareness, anticipation, policy planning and execution are the key to better earthquake preparedness in India. Town planning, building bye-laws, better construction methodologies can mitigate the risk of earthquakes. Most important in this is fixing accountability. This is where we fail in India.

Given the risks, we need to pay for greater attention to earthquake preparedness than we how done. Hundreds of thousands of lives are at risk. A national mission to prepare for the ‘earthquake’ must be launched immediately. The cost of delay would be prohibitive.

This workshop addresses the myriad issues pertaining to earthquake preparedness in India in a comprehensive manner. Leading experts have come together to deliberate over the issues involved. I would like to thank them for taking the time to participate in this workshop. We hope to bring out the recommendations of the deliberation of the workshop for larger discussions and debate.

Thank you.

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