Concerns surrounding earthquakes in the northeast, particularly that of a great one with the region being situated in Seismic Zone V, are manifold and alarming. We have limited knowledge about earthquakes but we all know they are the least predictable of natural disasters and possibly the most catastrophic.
Geologists are apprehensive that a high magnitude quake measuring 8 or greater in the Richter Scale occurring in the region will likely present a very damaging scenario due to the topography, polarization of population in urban areas and the change in building typology. Fortunately, there has not been any major disastrous quake, although minor ones are frequent.
As per records from India Meteorological Department under the Central Ministry of Earth Sciences, six moderate quakes have already occurred in the northeast region during this month alone. The most recent being the one that originated from Zunheboto district on August 17 last with a preliminary magnitude measuring 4.4.
For Nagaland, development and growth of urban towns are more often than not carried out unplanned, resulting in narrow roads with very little or no scope of widening, illegal structures and buildings are constructed without proper consultations or following standard codes. While the state government has framed its building by-laws which was enacted in 2005 and amended in 2012, it is yet to be properly enforced.
Another concern is, connectivity in terms of good roads and communication system especially in the interior districts. Should an earthquake of 7-8 or greater magnitude strike the state or any nearby location, accessibility within and to the state would prove to be a major challenge.
It was only recently that the state’s Chief Secretary has admitted that despite serious efforts being made to increase the state’s capacities to deal with natural and manmade disasters, Nagaland is still underprepared for an event like an earthquake of huge magnitude. He indicated that overlying all the different aspects of disasters, the state faces the biggest challenge in earthquakes and also expressed concern that when it comes to earthquake resistant structures, the state’s progress is still not enough. The official had also rightly pointed out the need to constantly review the adequacy and efficacy of the state’s disaster management plan including conducting mock drills which would put the people in a simulated situation and test their responses.
Towards this end, the Nagaland State Disaster Management Authority’s announcement to carry out a state-wide mega mock exercise to test the capability of the government to respond and manage any major impending disaster under the banner ‘Nagaland Emergency Preparedness Exercise’ (NEPEx) on August 30 next, is a welcome move. Public participation in such exercises is also necessary. There is a need for every citizen to feel equally responsible to be aware and keep their homes, towns and villages safe.
Earthquakes cannot be predicted, therefore, the best approach to face any eventuality is to build an earthquake resilient society.