Government has plan, but it was not ready

SRINAGAR: The strong earthquake on Monday confirmed what the grapevine had been saying in the aftermath of the devastating flood in 2014: the government is not prepared to handle a disaster like an earthquake or a flood.
Nearly a year after the flood, chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed approved a ‘Disaster Management Plan’, which called for readying people for pre- and post-disaster situations by conducting sustained awareness campaigns, capacity building and mock drills.
“Today’s quake showed none of these measures have been implemented,” said a disaster management official, requesting anonymity. Funds are not an issue, he added.
The official said that the successive governments could also not sustain disaster preparedness measures planned after the October 2005 earthquake, which killed more than 1300 people. In fact, the Disaster Management Authority lacks experts who can train people.
“Even the tehsildars appointed during the past few years have not received any disaster preparedness training,” he said.
According to a civil defence official, the training programme for policemen and various stakeholders executed after the 2005 quake was shelved. He said the training should be compulsory and imparted regularly.
Head of department earth sciences at Kashmir University Dr Shakil Ahmad Romshoo said although the disaster management authority exists, there is no clearly defined hierarchy of roles.
“The 2005 quake was a warning as well as an opportunity to learn something. But the government didn’t learn anything from it. It could not learn anything from last year’s flood. No awareness programmes are being held,” he told Kashmir Reader.
This year’s Economic Survey Report has termed earthquake as one of “haunting threats” facing the people of Jammu and Kashmir, which require serious attention.
It said a majority of areas of the state, including Srinagar, Ganderbal, Baramulla, Kupwara, Bandipora, Budgam, Anantnag, Pulwama, Doda, Ramban and Kishtwar fall under the Seismic Zone V. The districts form about 11% total area of the state and house 50% of its population. On the other hand, entire Ladakh and most districts of Jammu division, about 90% of the total area of the state, fall under Seismic Zone IV.
The seismic zones indicate the status and susceptibility of different regions to earthquakes, and the Bureau of Indian Standards
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has grouped them into four zones—II, III, IV and V. Of these, Zone V is the most seismically active region followed by the Zone IV.
“The area and properties in these zones is at high risk and therefore safety measures for public and private infrastructure are required to be taken in a sustained manner by all the stakeholders,” said the report.