Natural Disaster

Earthquake

An earthquake is a phenomenon that occurs without warning and involves violent shaking of the ground and everything over it. It results from the release of accumulated stress of the moving lithospheric or crustal plates. The earth’s crust is divided into seven major plates, that are about 50 miles thick, which move slowly and continuously over the earth’s interior and several minor plates. Earthquakes are tectonic in origin; that is the moving plates are responsible for the occurrence of violent shakes. The occurrence of an earthquake in a populated area may cause numerous casualties and injuries as well as extensive damage to property.

The Earthquake Risk in India

India’s increasing population and extensive unscientific constructions mushrooming all over, including multistoried luxury apartments, huge factory buildings, gigantic malls, supermarkets as well as warehouses and masonry buildings keep – India at high risk. During the last 15 years, the country has experienced 10 major earthquakes that have resulted in over 20,000 deaths. As per the current seismic zone map of the country (IS 1893: 2002), over 59 per cent of India’s land area is under threat of moderate to severe seismic hazard-; that means it is prone to shaking of MSK Intensity VII and above (BMTPC, 2006). In fact, the entire Himalayan belt is considered prone to great earthquakes of magnitude exceeding 8.0-; and in a relatively short span of about 50 years, four such earthquakes have occurred: 1897 Shillong (M8.7); 1905 Kangra (M8.0); 1934 Bihar-Nepal (M8.3); and 1950 Assam-Tibet (M8.6). Scientific publications have warned of the likelihood of the occurrence of very severe earthquakes in the Himalayan region, which could adversely affect the lives of several million people in India.

At one time regions of the country away from the Himalayas and other inter-plate boundaries were considered to be relatively safe from damaging earthquakes. However, in the recent past, even these areas have experienced devastating earthquakes, albeit of lower magnitude than the Himalayan earthquakes. The Koyna earthquake in 1967 led to revision of the seismic zoning map, resulting in deletion of the non-seismic zone from the map. The areas surrounding Koyna were also re-designated to Seismic Zone IV, indicating high hazard. The occurrence of the Killari earthquake in 1993 resulted in further revision of the seismic zoning map in which the low hazard zone or Seismic Zone I was merged with Seismic Zone II, and some parts of Deccan and Peninsular India were brought under Seismic Zone III consisting of areas designated as moderate hazard zone areas. Recent research suggests that as understanding of the seismic hazard of these regions increases, more areas assigned as low hazard may be re-designated to higher level of seismic hazard, or vice-versa.

The North-Eastern part of the country continues to experience moderate to large earthquakes at frequent intervals including the two great earthquakes mentioned above. Since 1950, the region has experienced several moderate earthquakes. On an average, the region experiences an earthquake with a magnitude greater than 6.0 every year. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are also situated on an inter-plate boundary and frequently experience damaging earthquakes.

The increase in earthquake risk is due to a spurt in developmental activities driven by urbanization, economic development and the globalization of India’s economy. The increase in use of high-technology equipment and tools in manufacturing and service industries has also made them susceptible to disruption due to relatively moderate ground shaking. As a result, loss of human life is not the only determinant of earthquake risk any more. Severe economic losses leading to the collapse of the local or regional economy after an earthquake may have long-term adverse consequences for the entire country. This effect would be further magnified if an earthquake affects a mega-city, such as Delhi or Mumbai.

Project Report: M 8.7 Shillong 1897 Earthquake Scenario:NE Multi State Preparedness Campaign”
Seismic Vulnerability Assessment of Building Typology in India
Awareness Generation Resources for Earthquake Diasaster Management
Disaster(Earthquake) Resistant Construction Practice
Techno Legal Regime for Safe Construction Practice (Model Amendment in Town & Country Planning Legislations, Regulation for Land Use Zoning and Building Byelaws for Structural Safety)
Past Programmes/Projects, Resource Materials on Earthquake Risk Management.
PSHA Table at Grid Points
Post-Earthquake Reconnaissance Report
Post-Earthquake Reconnaissance Report
Home Owners Earthquake Safety

Floods

India is highly vulnerable to floods. Out of the total geographical area of 329 million hectares (mha), more than 40 mha is flood prone. Floods are a recurrent phenomenon, which cause huge loss of lives and damage to livelihood systems, property, infrastructure and public utilities. It is a cause for concern that flood related damages show an increasing trend. The average annual flood damage in the last 10 years period from 1996 to 2005 was Rs. 4745 crore as compared to Rs. 1805 crore, the corresponding average for the previous 53 years. This can be attributed to many reasons including a steep increase in population, rapid urbanization growing developmental and economic activities in flood plains coupled with global warming.

An average every year, 75 lakh hectares of land is affected, 1600 lives are lost and the damage caused to crops, houses and public utilities is Rs.1805 crores due to floods. The maximum number of lives (11,316) was lost in the year 1977. The frequency of major floods is more than once in five years.

Floods have also occurred in areas, which were earlier not considered flood prone. An effort has been made in these Guidelines to cover the entire gamut of Flood Management. Eighty per cent of the precipitation takes place in the monsoon months from June to September. The rivers a bring heavy sediment load from catchments. These, coupled with inadequate carrying capacity of rivers are responsible for causing floods, drainage congestion and erosion of river-banks. Cyclones, cyclonic circulations and cloud bursts cause flash floods and lead to huge losses. It is a fact that some of the rivers causing damage in India originate in neighboring countries; adding another complex dimension to the problem. Continuing and large-scale loss of lives and damage to public and private property due to floods indicate that we are still to develop an effective response to floods. NDMA’s Executive Summary Guidelines have been prepared to enable the various implementing and stakeholder agencies to effectively address the critical areas for minimising flood damage.

Landslide

India has the highest mountain chain on earth, the Himalayas, which are formed due to collision of Indian and Eurasian plate, the northward movement of the Indian plate towards China causes continuous stress on the rocks rendering them friable, weak and prone to landslides and earthquakes. The slow motion of the Indian crust, about 5 cm/year accumulates stress to which natural disasters are attributed. Some landslides make unique, and unparalleled catastrophes. Landslides and avalanches are among the major hydro-geological hazards that affect large parts of India besides the Himalayas, the Northeastern hill ranges, the Western Ghats, the Nilgiris, the Eastern Ghats and the Vindhyans, in that order, covering about 15 % of the landmass. The Himalayas alone count for landslides of every fame, name and description- big and small, quick and creeping, ancient and new. The Northeastern region is badly affected by landslide problems of a bewildering variety. Landslides in the Darjeeling district of West Bengal as also those in Sikkim, Mizoram, Tripura, Meghalaya, Assam, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh pose chronic problems, causing recurring economic losses worth billions of rupees. A different variety of landslides, characterized by a lateritic cap, pose constant threat to the Western Ghats in the South, along the steep slopes overlooking the Konkan coast besides Nilgiris, which is highly landslide prone.

Land Slide

Some spectacular events of tragedies are reported as Varnavat landslide, Uttarkashi District, Malpha landslide Pithoragarh district, Okhimath landslide in Chamoli district, UK and Paglajhora in Darjeeling district as well as Sikkim, Aizawl sports complex, Mizoram.These are some of the more recent examples of landslides. The problem therefore needs to be tackled for mitigation and management for which hazard zones have to be identified and specific slides to be stabilized and managed in addition to monitoring and early warning systems to be placed at selected sites. The Photograph of Okhimath landslide which formed a lake in Madhyamaheshwerganga, Rudraprayag district.

Cyclones

Cyclones are caused by atmospheric disturbances around a low-pressure area distinguished by swift and often destructive air circulation. Cyclones are usually accompanied by violent storms and bad weather. The air circulates inward in an anticlockwise direction in the Northern hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern hemisphere. Cyclones are classified as: (i) extra tropical cyclones (also called temperate cyclones); and (ii) tropical cyclones. The word Cyclone is derived from the Greek word Cyclos meaning the coils of a snake. It was coined by Henry Peddington because the tropical storms in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea appear like coiled serpents of the sea.

Classifications

Cyclones are classified as extra tropical cyclones (also called temperate cyclones); and tropical cyclones.

The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO, 1976) uses the term ‘Tropical Cyclone’ to cover weather systems in which winds exceed ‘Gale Force’ (minimum of 34 knots or 63 kph). Tropical cyclones are the progeny of ocean and atmosphere, powered by the heat from the sea; and driven by easterly trades and temperate westerlies, high planetary winds and their own fierce energy.

In India, cyclones are classified by:

Strength of associated winds,
Storm surges
Exceptional rainfall occurrences.
Extra tropical cyclones occur in temperate zones and high latitude regions, though they are known to originate in the Polar Regions.

Cyclones that developin the regions between the Tropics of Capricorn and Cancer are called tropical cyclones. Tropical cyclones are large-scale weather systems developing over tropical or subtropical waters, where they get organized into surface wind circulation.

Worldwide terminology

Cyclones are given many names in different regions of the world – They are known as typhoons in the China Sea and Pacific Ocean; hurricanes in the West Indian islands in the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean; tornados in the Guinea lands of West Africa and southern USA.; willy-willies in north-western Australia and tropical cyclones in the Indian Ocean.

Indian Meteorological Department

The criteria below has been formulated by the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), which classifies the low pressure systems in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea on the basis of capacity to damage, which is adopted by the WMO.