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GeoGraphy and you.


Gny SINCe 2001 Vol. 15, ISSue 90, 2015


A De v e l op m e n t A n D e n v i ron m e n t m Ag A z i n e

Disaster stuDy
Disaster mitigation needs
prioritisation for risksensitive development


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Harvest every
The Waterman of
India, Rajendra Singh,
a conservationist from
Rajasthan, talks about the
urgency of ground water
replenishment ...

Social Science
should be an integral
part of Scientific
Dr. Nafeez Meah, director,
Research Councils UK talk
about the prospects of the
UK-India collaboration...

Medha Patkar, an
academician turned
activist, threw light on the
directionless policies of
the government...

MoES to focus on
discovery, improved
Shailesh Nayak comments
about the services
rendered to the nation by
the Ministry and states
its plans

Photo courtesy: Goonj

GeoGraphy and you

Vol. 15 Issue 90 May - June 2015

Cleaning of debris in a village pond post 2013

Uttarakhand flashfloods, under Cloth for Work
project by Goonj, a not for profit organisation.

e a rt hQ ua K e
6 A Stitch in Time

Making Disaster Risk Reduction a Priority for Everyone

Manu Gupta


Developing a Disaster Management

C p rajendran



The Nepal Earthquake

The Mechanics of Devastation

I n dIa ou t d o or s
60 Exploring Ladakh

Of Magnetic Hills, a Confluence

and Moonlands
Shreya Sikder

G p Ganapathy

r e p ort Watc h

Tremors in Bihar

28 Towards Risk Sensitive Development

43 The Land Acquisition Legislation: An Update

anil k Sinha and aSif Shahab


Traditional Genius and Earthquakes

Staff reporter

Career in Disaster Management

Expert Panel

piyooSh rautela


Building on a Flood Plain and a Fault Zone

anup kuMar

e c o syst e M
46 Bangladeshs

Prithvish Nag


Calling for a Spill Proof Environment

Pethia Striata

Western Ghats Newly Discovered Member

Staff reporter


Vice Chancellor,
MG Kashi Vidyapeeth,

Ajit Tyagi

Air Vice Marshal (Retd)

Former DG,
IMD, New Delhi.

Staff reporter


In BrIef
2 Editors note 4 Letters 27 Term power 30
Quick facts; The Earthquake Myths 31 Injection
Induced Earthquakes
32 Earthquake Technologies 39 The Top 10
Earthquake Prone Cities 52 Term Power Rating

Last of the True Bovines

Staff reporter

In conversatIon
with Asutosh Sharma,
Secretary, Department of
Science and Technology,
Government of India

40 High Risk- High Gain

Changing the face of Indian


B Meenakumari

Deputy Director General,

Fisheries, Indian Council of
Agricultural Research, New Delhi.

Rasik Ravindra

Panikkar Professor at ESSO,

Ministry of Earth Sciences,
Former Director, NCAOR.

Saraswati Raju

Professor, CSRD,
Jawaharlal Nehru
University, New Delhi.

Sachidanand Sinha
Professor, CSRD,
Jawaharlal Nehru
University, New Delhi.

GeoGraphy and you May - June 2015

Village Kishengarh, near the posh south Delhi colony

of Vasant Kunj, is used as a low cost housing for
the migrant population to the city. The buildings are
perched upon each other, branching out at the top, to
almost obliterate the sky. The bases are narrow and
most of the upper walls are four inches thick. This is
true for all such areas in Delhi.

May - June 2015 GeoGraphy and you

Edi t ors | no t E

Dear Readers,

hat an earthquake is a natural disaster,

the most unpredictable of Gods will,
is what we have been conditioned to
believe. But, perhaps an earthquake should
be renamed to bring man at the centre of it
all. How about anthropoquakewould that
be suitable enough to distinguish between
disaster caused by man and that caused
by the almighty? We are perhaps the only
creature created in the entire web of life,
which can kill with impunity for something as
trifle as wealth.
The Nepal tragedy was primarily caused
by the poor quality of housing. Every expert
who has kindly contributed for this issue
has asserted and re-asserted the fact.
Earthquake in a barren tract of land, quite
obviously, has little impact. But, place large,
unplanned, fragile manmade structures on
that very land and you have a recipe for
trouble. It is not as if buildings cannot be
built in earthquake prone areas. Traditional
housing structures show that even our
ancient forefathers knew how to do the job.

Then again, the most earthquake prone

country in the world, Japan, houses few of
the tallest buildings of the world. Are they
falling apart like a box of cards at every jitter
that the earths crust experiences?
Opposed to Nepal, India has regulatory
bodies that issue quake related building
advisories to be followed in earthquake
prone areas. Yet, we dont need to travel
very far to see how well they are abided by.
A walk through a few bylanes in New Delhi,
the capital of India, and perhaps its most
rabid building lobby, is enough to show how
deadly our game is. Being amongst the top
ten quake prone cities, there is hardly any
punishment for irresponsible builders and
home owners. With population no longer
considered a resource, and life no longer
precious, perhaps the ruling government
would be happy to blame poor God at the
end of it.

GeoGraphy and you May - June 2015

GeoGraphy and you

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KriShnendu datta
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a Child in the baCKdrop
of a devaStated home in
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GnY ran a debate about Indias packaged food between June 9 and 11, 2015 on Geography and
You-Facebook. Readers were asked to respond to the poor quality of food in India in the backdrop
of Nestles instant Maggi noodle controversy. The question asked was whether packaged products
made life easier or cheaper.
For more details log on to our website

IndIa has always had a rich food culture.

Unfortunately, it has been overshadowed

by ready-to-make products like Maggi.
It has not made life easier since it might
satiate your appetite but can have serious
consequences in the long run. Moreover,
there are cheaper things available in the
market which we dont buy because we
remain unaware of their nutrition value.
The cost of a 4 pack Maggi is Rs 45. This
amount can fetch us a full kilogram of poha
or sooji, which can be instantly made into
so many tasty and nutritious eats.
Samruddhi milind Patwardhan
RelyIng on packaged foods is a blind
imitation of the West that has invaded
India in the wake of globalisation. Eating
an instantly made pack of noodles may be
easier but it will only prove detrimental to
our rich nutritional heritage, and general
health, making us a lot poorer in every way.

health if consumed over a long duration.

The best solution is to regularly research
on packaged food, tighten government
regulations and create greater food
awareness amongst the people.
Sam Joe
packaged food cultuRe has made life

definitely easier for us, but not safer. If

anything, it is dangerous.
anKit Sinha
globalIsatIon and modeRnIsatIon have imposed

busy lifestyles on both men and women,

making packaged foods an inseparable part
of our lives. Taste and ease of preparation,
along with a multi-pronged marketing
strategy have made Maggi noodles,
like many other snacks, an attractive
proposition, at the cost of our hoary
traditions and food culture.
hari KeSavan

KumKiuba K limS
maggI noodles, packaged cereals, quick
Ready-to-make packaged foods like Maggi are

focused on the middle and upper echelon

of society where time has become a major
constraint with the growth in double income
families. Regular consumption of Rs 10-12
Maggi noodles packs may seem cheap, but
it can mess up our system, and make us
spend several times more on medical bills.
niKita niKi
In IndIa, packaged foods are extremely popular

cutting across classes and ages. Low

cost, easy cooking and great taste make
them the perfect choice, given our hectic
lifestyles today. But beneath this veneer of
cost-friendly healthy food lies the monster
slowly eating away into our health. The
packaged food industry adds addictive and
unhealthy substances to make our food
tasty. Clever labeling and naming can hide
their dangers from us. What appears as the
perfect combination of taste and health, can
prove fatal. The devil lies in the detailsfrom
MSG ( monosodium glutamate) to high salt
and sugar content, packaged food contains
everything that can seriously endanger our

May - June 2015 GeoGraphy and you

-cooking oats or any other packaged food

commodity serve as a taste enhancer
and is a welcome departure from our
regular diet. But, if we want to imitate
the packaged food culture of the west,
it is important to be as vigilant and strict
about food safety as them. We Indians
hardly care to scrutinise the ingredients
on packaged food, nor understand the
intricacies involved in labeling them. A
little honesty on the part of manufacturers
and some vigilance on the part of
consumers can help making our life safer
and food yummier!
Shivam dwivedi
I dont thInk packaged food is cheaper
because a pack of chips costs Rs 20 while
a big bottle of soft drink costs more than
Rs 30. Compare that with the price of a
kilogram of wheat flour or groundnuts. It
is high time we opted for a healthier and
better food culture.
PraJin Ponnoth
ouR IgnoRance and general unavailability

of organic food has let multinational

companies dump infected packaged foods
on us Indians. These foods have made our
lives cheaper, not easier.
archana mathur

towards convenient, and easy-to-make fast

food. Well known brands were what people
felt confident about, as regards hygiene and
quality. The Maggi controversy has been a
major letdown for us all in India.
adv dnyanada damodar mahaJan

In IndIa, packaged or canned foods are neither

used as breakfast, lunch nor dinner. These

only supplement our traditional food items,
and hence have no impact on our lifestyles.
The question is relevant only to the west.
nK naidu

In a developIng countRy like ours, where

millions die of hunger, it is certainly ironical

to have people die of [packaged] food.
Paying Rs 5 to 10 to poison ourselves is not
what we had ever bargained for when we
opted for this easy option.

easy-to-cook packed food products have

mir aShfaq

certainly made life easier for people in our

cities. The time factor in their busy lifestyles
has forced many to opt for these quick
cooking items, and multinational giants
have made good use of the opportunity,
brainwashing people with promises of
instant, cheap, nutritious fast food. Few
have cared or dared to question their
claims of being fat free, vegetarian or
calcium-rich. As consumers, it is our
duty to be vigilant of what we consume.
An interdisciplinary approach involving all
stakeholders is what is needed today for
our well being.

maggI noodles caught on because Nestle

spent over Rs 450 crore to promote it,
while the Government barely ever had any
budgetary allocation to raise awareness
on the issue of empty calories. The
government looked away even as an entire
generation got addicted to packaged foods,
although it is its duty to make nutritive
food available at an affordable cost. Nestle
offered us a cheap and easy food item,
spending only Rs 19 crore on quality
control, as against the massive marketing
blitz undertaken to market the product.

vinay tJ

ratna deeP Singh

advantages and dIsadvantages constitute

the cheap pRIce of Maggi noodles served to

an integral part of our food choices. For

hygiene, we can perhaps trust packaged
food as compared to dhabas operating
in dusty lanes next to garbage bins and
open sewage. But, though people debate
whether packaged foods should be used
for a healthy tomorrow, no one cares about
why we use these foods in the first place.
The role of media in infusing the utility and
advantages of any product in the popular
psyche also needs some scrutiny.

give it a push among the common masses.

Banning however is no solution to ensure
better health.

aiJaz huSSain maliK

In the past, people always opted to the kind
of food most suited to our environmental
conditions. Changes in our social structure
and busy schedules have pushed people

dIgItal edItIons
gny iS available
on digital
from January
2015 onwardS.
SpeCial lifetime

public Service advert The

Invisible Indians on gny

public Service advert Lost

Without a Loo on gny

ribanlangKy chen
pRIoR to the maggI noodles controversy,
perhaps none of us had ever bothered to
check the constituents of what we happily
devoured of packaged food. While one can
well blame the aggressive marketing by
multinationals for the growth of packaged
food and snacks, we must understand that
nothing happens in a vacuum. Government
negligence is equally to blame. Without a
supportive state, food safety laws can never
be enforced.
ShiKhar nema

wRIte editorial office: geography and you, 1584, b-1, vasant Kunj, new delhi-110070. letters may be edited for clarity and length. include
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coRRIgendum : the figure 8,48 on page 23, fig no., 2, energy Consumption and dependence on Coal, march-april 2015 of gny, should be
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GeoGraphy and you May - June 2015

E A R T H | QU A K E

Long term mitigation planning, and ensuring that all

new development is sensitive to potential risks is
the need of the hour, given the fact that South Asia is
vulnerable to major earthquakes in the future.

May - June 2015 GeoGraphy and you

A Stitch
in time
By Manu Gupta

Photo courteSy: SeeDS/SiDDhArth BehL

Making disaster risk reduction a

priority for everyone

In developing regions, the focus

is on economic growth and visible
results achieved in a short period.
Development and growth create
new risks and vulnerability that are
simply overlooked.
GeoGraphy and you May - June 2015

May - June 2015 GeoGraphy and you

while building codes exist, there is little enforcement by local governments due to poor governance.
The result of poor governance is evident from the
earthquakes that struck Haiti and Chile in 2010.
Haiti was hit by an earthquake on January 12 and
Chile, just five weeks later. The Haiti earthquake
killed 2,00,000 people and in Chile, a 500-times
stronger earthquake claimed 800 lives. Apparently,
the difference in mortality was due to the location
and depth of the two earthquakes. However, a
deeper analysis reveals a number of governance
factors that were in play, that contributed to the
differing tolls.
Chile has an excellent building code instituted
since the 1930s; Haiti has no building code and a
vast majority of people lived in poorly constructed
houses. Transparency International, a global civil
society organisation that fights against corruption, headquartered in Berlin, ranks Haiti at 168

Photo courteSy: SeeDS/SiDDhArth BehL

he Nepal earthquakes are a painful

reminder for all of us that almost the
entire South Asian population lies
in harms way. Consider the fact that
80 per cent of Indias building stock
is non-engineered. Even the balance stock is not
necessarily capable of withstanding earthquakes
of the magnitude that struck Nepal. While the
risk of earthquakes is everywhere, it is particularly
accentuated in urban areas due to their population
Today, India is rapidly urbanising. As per the
2011 Census, every third Indian now lives in an
urban area. Large scale migration has overloaded
the limited housing stock in cities. Every year, there
are more than three thousand building collapses
( These are symptomatic of our
current state of infrastructure and their vulnerability to earthquakes. There are other factors as well

and Chile at 25 in the least-to-most corrupt index.

Little wonder that governance-related inefficiencies
in Haiti led to large scale damage to buildings and
the corresponding toll in human lives. Investing
in disaster prevention has rarely been a priority
for governments. As a politician from Philippines
confessed, disaster risk reduction will become my
priority only if it can get me more votes in the next
In developing regions such as ours, the focus is on
economic growth and visible results achieved in a
short period. Development and growth create new
risks and vulnerability that are simply overlooked. A
proactive citizenry is needed to hold governments to
account in ensuring that human-induced factors do
not cause disasters and loss of lives. Citizen empowerment can be brought about through greater
awareness on existing risks and new risks that are
created through development investments. Do
governments carry out proper risk assessments, and
if so, are these used to guide investment decisions? It
is high time citizens and civil society organisations
ask these questions.
If the Nepal earthquakes do not succeed in waking
us up, probably nothing else can. We cannot wait for
another tragedy to come our way. A fait accompli
attitude must be discarded in favour of an alert,
more resilient path.
Planning for disasters and preparing for them is
a good measure to start with. Even hospitals and
households can practice basic drillslike knowing
where the immediate risks lie, knowing how to
protect themselves in an earthquake and in case of
unavoidable injury,learn to administer first aid. Of
course, these measures are useful to cut down losses
from large catastrophic events, but prevention can
only be achieved through long-term mitigation
planning, and by ensuring that all new development
is sensitive to potential risks.
Since poorly constructed buildings are the biggest
killer in earthquakes, our priority for mitigation is
clearly cut out. Earthquake resistant technology
has already been in use for many decades now. The
Indian Seismic Code for buildings, IS 1893 has been
in place since 1962. We need to ensure that all new
The earthquakes that jolted Nepal on April 26 and May
12, 2015 were the worst natural disasters to strike the
country in over 80 years. Similar to Nepal, about 80 per
cent of Indias buildings are non-engineered, while the
rest may not necessarily be capable of withstanding
earthquakes of the magnitude that struck Nepal.

If the Nepal earthquakes do

not succeed in waking us up,
probably nothing else can.
We cannot wait for another
tragedy to come our way.
buildings henceforth adhere to this code. At the very
minimum, a well-engineered building can prove to
be a strong defence against low to medium intensity
quakes. Not just new buildings, but existing buildings could also be retrofitted with technologies in
practice all over the world. In India, the IS 13935 code
for load bearing buildings, which form majority of
the existing building stock, is in existence.
The California State Government passed the Field
Act following the 1933 Long Beach earthquake to
ensure that all schools in California comply with
seismic resistant technology. The effort was huge and
it took almost 50 years to implement. However, not a
single school has collapsed since, in much deadlier
earthquakes that occurred in subsequent decades.
In more recent times, the Canadian government
launched a similar seismic mitigation programme
in British Columbia covering all 339 schools in
the region.
Such programmes are not just the exclusive
domain of rich nations. In India,similar efforts were
initiated in the past, but lack of popular support has
let them remain largely piece meal. Given our present
predicament, it is inoperative that such issues be put
on priority for the resilience and sustainability of
our societies.
The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, 2015 signed by 186 countries, which was put
in place just a month prior to the Nepal earthquake
is the best existing instrument for us to embark on
a path of reasonable growth and a safe future. The
Sendai Framework calls for a substantial reduction
of disaster risk and losses in lives, livelihoods and
health and in the economic, physical, social, cultural
and environmental assets of persons, businesses,
communities and countries.
Given the present context, the Framework is by far
our best bet for a safe world for future generations.
The author is Executive Director, SEEDS, New Delhi.
GeoGraphy and you May - June 2015

E A R T H | QU A K E

The recent Nepal earthquakes should be viewed as an

opportunity to rethink earlier attitudes, and have us
embark on a disaster management strategy based on
mitigation, rather than mere response.


May - June 2015 GeoGraphy and you

a disaster

PhoTo courTesy: IcIMoD

By C P Rajendran

Response team in action after the earthquake

devastation in Kathmandu, Nepal

GeoGraphy and you May - June 2015


he April 25 Nepal disaster is yet

another reminder for us to develop a
sound policy for disaster preparedness
strategy for the central Himalayan
region. Being vulnerable to both
floods and earthquakes, this region requires special
attention. Special efforts need to be mounted to
develop hazard scenarios and models using land
zonation maps.
Todays computing packages can balance
demands with sustainability and provide optimum
scenarios within acceptable levels of risk. A
realistic mitigation strategy should be based on a
blueprint that strikes a balance between development, acceptable levels of risk and economics.
This can not only popularise land use planning,
but also encourage people to adopt building codes
(minimum construction standards) effective for
reducing disaster losses.
Most low income groups in disaster prone areas
live in poor quality houses. We need to provide
incentives to change the local outlook towards
disaster management and preparation. It is thus
necessary to improve upon traditional construction practices and architectural preferences and put
them into practice. The impact of natural disasters
can be reduced through two basic approaches
mitigation, and response.
Mitigation involves action taken, by applying
scientific and technological inputsbefore, during
and after the occurrence of a natural event, which
can minimise the impact of the event/disaster. A
realistic mitigation strategy includes demarcating areas that are prone to hazards; indicating
the nature of hazards; identifying populations
and structures vulnerable to specific hazards;
fixing standards for acceptable levels of risk; and
developing an appropriate plan of action based on
costbenefit analysis.
Response includes actions taken during and
immediately after the event. There are various
elements in a disaster mitigation programme. It
may involve hazard zonation, that is, demarcation
of areas prone to floods, earthquakes or landslides;
strengthening structures to reduce vulnerability;
generating a scientifically sound land use map that
encourages people to move away from vulnerable
areas, and warning of impending hazards like
floods and cyclones. Response encompasses both
short-term emergency action (rescue operations
mounted by the police or the army) as well as

May - June 2015 GeoGraphy and you

longer term actions (distribution of food, shelter or

rebuilding of homes).
Although both mitigation and response are
equally important, political and cultural reasons
have always laid emphasis only on response. Elsewhere, especially in developed countries, the last
decade has seen a major shift from the traditional
focus on response and recovery to mitigation, that
is, preventive action meant to reduce the effects of
natural hazards.

The himalayan region and disaster


The Himalayas comprise a dynamic, changing

landscape. Earthquakes, avalanches and floods are
natural processes that can spell disaster for those
who live on its fringes.
Our experience in Himalayan towns, indicates
that better building practices could notably lessen
the impact of destructive earthquakes. Our
present understanding of seismology allows us to
reasonably quantify the expected ground motion
in any region; this can be the basis for designing
earthquake resistant buildings. We must develop
online disaster information networks that include
spatial maps delineating hazard zones, primarily,
a geographical information system (GIS) package.
This system can also use archival data on past
events in conjunction with online data. Recent
trends in data dissemination can be useful in
planning emergency services. For example, the
latest advances in seismic sensor technology, data
acquisition systems, digital communication and
computer hardware and software can facilitate
the development of real time earthquake information systems. In fact, real time data dissemination
through free sharing of data ought to become the
backbone of any disaster management system. For
this, we need to change the present order of things
where access to data remains a tall order, requiring
the endorsement for various authorities.
We also need to seriously think of land use
planning, and implementation of building codes.
This will not be an easy task, since it will need
acquiescence from the local people. Herein, rather
than using strong arm tactics, incentives such
as lower building and property taxes for those
who opt to live away from hazardous areas may
work far better. Ultimately, the subsidies and tax
discounts can be easily offset by the lower losses
incurred during a disaster. As a starting point, the

PhoTo courTesy: IcIMoD (ToP) aND GooNj (BoTToM)

We need a holistic strategy

wherein land use planning,
implementation of strict
building norms, data
dissemination and access
play a major role.

government can lead by example by implementing

safe building norms in its own constructions in
hazardous regions.
To strengthen our disaster management
capabilities, it is important that we build a pool
of trained scientists and technologists. For this,
we need to change our university departments
from being watertight compartments. Students
ought to be allowed to choose relevant optional
topics even while they major in one subject. Syllabi
ought to be updated regularly to accommodate
newer and relevant topics. Interaction between
research organisations, relevant university
departments,non-governmental organisations
and interested public/private companies must be
encouraged for transfer of knowledge and expertise.
All these cannot be accomplished overnight, but a
beginning will need to be made. Our leadership
must realise that scientific studies, proper engineering and public awareness are the fundamental
pillars of an effective hazard mitigation strategy.
We also need to make progress in risk assessment, which forms the core database for disaster
management. It requires intense field studies and
developing models using data on the frequency
and severity of a particular type of natural hazard
that strikes an area, and combining this with
the nature and class of vulnerable structures.
Powerful computing packages, involving GIS
have to be developed not only to estimate the
costs, but to generate different disaster mitigation
scenarios or models using relevant post disaster
investigative data.
Many local revenue divisions may already
be involved in collecting this information. It is
important to archive these data, for use in generating models. Such models, even if not the most

Building of temporary structures in Kathmandu (top);

disaster mitigation training underway by the NGO,
Goonj, in Uttarakhand (below).

accurate, need to be generated for every hazardous

regions in this country, since they can provide for
the scientific basis for fund allocation and deciding
priorities. This database can then help develop an
active online disaster information network which
can be used in conjunction with current data.
The Nepal tragedy may also be seen as an opportunity for us all to do a rethinking of our past and
embark on a new disaster management strategy for
the ecologically fragile Himalayan region.


It is time that post-disaster investigative data

collected in connection with the 2015 Nepal
disaster be collated along with other archival data
from earlier earthquakes in the Himalayan region
to conceive a new disaster management strategy
that can minimise the loss of lives and immovable
property in the future.
The author is a professor in the Geodynamics Unit,
Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific
Research, Bangalore.
GeoGraphy and you May - June 2015


E A R T H | QU A K E

The northward thrust of the Indian plate into the Eurasian

plate at a rate of 40-50 mm/year has been regularly causing
earthquakes and has consequently made the Central
Himalayan region among the most seismically unsafe.

By G P Ganapathy


May - June 2015 GeoGraphy and you

The Mechanics of

The Eurasian and Indian plates meet along the

central part of Nepal. The subducting Indian plate
thrusting into the Eurasian plate makes Nepal a highrisk seismic zone. In such a scenario, measures to
minimise quake-related damage is imperative.

GeoGraphy and you May - June 2015


he Himalayan Region is one of the

most active tectonic belts of the world
with an active continent-continent
collision boundary. Seismicity in this
region primarily results from the
movement and thrust of the Indian and Eurasian
plates and the resulting collisions therein. The 25
April, 2015 earthquake that clocked 7.8 on the
Richter scale occurred due to a thrust interface
between the subducting Indian plate and the
preponderant Eurasia plate to the north (USGS,
2015). The northward thrust of the Indian plate
into the Eurasian plate at a rate of 40-50 mm/year
has been regularly causing earthquakes and has
consequently made this region among the most
seismically unsafe regions on earth.

april 2015 nepal earthquake

The epicentre of the April 25, 2015 earthquake,

approximately 80 km to the northwest of the
Nepalese capital of Kathmandu, was at the point of
convergence of the Indian plate with the Eurasian
plate. This movement towards the north-northeast
is driving the uplift of the Himalayan mountain
range at a fraction of ~18 mm/yr. The boundary
region of the Indian and Eurasia plates, where Nepal
lies, has a history of large and great earthquakes.
Nepal, in its entirety, falls in a high earthquake
intensity belt, that is IX and X on the Modified
Mercalli Intensity Scale (MMI).
Following this, a major earthquake aftershock
with the magnitude of 7.3 hit Nepal a second time
on May 12, 2015, 75 km east of Kathmandu. Over
200 people were killed and more than 2,500 were
injured. The earthquake occurred as the result of
thrust faulting on or near the Main Himalayan Thrust
Boundary, which defines the interface between the
under-thrusting Indian plate and the overriding
Eurasian plate to the north as noted by USGS.
Nepal is seismically a very active zone. There
have been eight large earthquakes with M 7 in the
Central Himalayan region between 1803 to 1936
including the great earthquake of 1934. However,
there had been no major earthquakes in the recent
past until now. This has been so despite Nepal being
located in the central part of the Himalayan arc.
The 2015 earthquakes not only severely damaged
Kathmandu, Nepal and parts of Bihar, but resulted
in around 10,800 fatalities. The devastation and
severity encountered now can only be matched
with an earthquake of similar size in 1833.

May - June 2015 GeoGraphy and you

Archival data tells us that the 1934 Nepal earthquake had severely shaken the Kathmandu Valley,
and destroyed 20 per cent and damaged 40 per cent
of the valleys building stock. In Kathmandu city,
one quarter of all homes were destroyed by the
quake. Many temples in Bhaktapur were destroyed
as well. This earthquake was not an isolated event.
In 1988, a moderate earthquake of magnitude 6.5
on the Richter scale that hit eastern Nepal killed
721 people.
Data available from the Department of Mines
and Geology, Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS)
concludes that earthquakes of more than or equal to
5.0 on the Richter scale have occurred at least once
every year in Nepal since 1987, with the exception of
1989 and 1992 when no such events were recorded.
The current disaster database of Nepal shows
that there were 22 earthquakes with magnitudes
ranging from 4.5 to 6.5 on the Richter Scale
throughout the country in the 37 year period from
1971 to 2007. According to DesInventars Disaster
Inventory System, powered by UNISDR (www., 2007), about 34,000 buildings
were destroyed and 55,000 were damaged during
this period due to earthquakes. A simple loss estimation carried out under the Kathmandu Valley
Earthquake Risk Management Project (KVERMP)
in 2002 jointly by the Ministry of Home Affairs
(MoHA, Nepal) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) had suggested that in case of a
recurrence of similar shaking as that of 1934 in the
Kathmandu Valley, one could expect 40,000 deaths,
95,000 injured casualties, and 600,000-900,000
persons rendered homeless as a consequence of 60
per cent dwellings being damaged.

Subsoil quality and earthquake damage

Generally, subsoil conditions, construction

materials used and deficiencies in construction
technology are the major factors that affect houses
during an earthquake. The Kathmandu valley is
underlain by soft lacustraine and fluvial sediments
belonging to the Pliocene and Pleistocene ages.
These thick and weak materials produce high
amplification during an earthquake. This means
filled up soils or loose soil deposits amplify an
earthquake tremor thrice as much as hard rock.
Microzonation studies of the Kathmandu valley
have demonstrated that its soils have high vibration
periods with a high chance of resonance. Hence,
there is a greater possibility of damage.

Fig. 1: The Nepal earthquake

deformation with InSAR
Radar images from Sentinel-1
satellite have revealed a high
level of detail of the devastating
earthquake that struck Nepal
on 25 April. Two images have
been compared, one acquired
before the event (on 17 April),
the other after (on 29 April). The
interferogram shows fringes
(complete cycles of colour) each
of which represents around
3 cm of deformation. The great
number of fringes provides an
idea of the destructive nature
of the event that has lifted up
the ground around Kathmandu
causing motion of about 1 m.

*Each fringe corresponds to 2, 8 cm of displacement


Another phenomenon called soil liquefaction,

which accompanies an earthquake can cause
structural failure and damage to roads, pipelines
and infrastructure. Weak subsurface conditions in
the Kathmandu valley have been ignored and many
tall structures built. The liquefaction phenomenon
following an earthquake causes many such buildings to sink in the soil as if on quicksand.
The boundary/edge of the Indian and Eurasian
plates lies across Nepal. Hence, any disturbance
or movement involving these plates would be
strongly felt all across Nepal. Besides, the epicenter,
77 km northwest of Kathmandu, lay close to a
densely populated zone. Poor construction, lack of
proper maintenance and flawed building practices
combined to turn Nepalese dwellings into virtual
death traps.
Most structures in Nepal are made of brick walls
and mud mortar. The brick material is bonded
with mud in most ancient buildings. The extent of
damage caused depends on the strength, ductility,
and integrity of the building along with the stiffness
of the ground beneath it.
It is quite interesting that the earthquake
epicenters was equidistant from Kathmandu from
opposite sides. The May earthquake was 75 km east,
while the April one was 75 km west of Kathmandu.
Even though the second one was of lesser magnitude (7.3) the damage to building increased due to
intense effect of the first shock. Fortunately there

is no other big city in the vicinity of Kathmandu,

which reduced the death toll. In both cases the
timing of the earthquake reduced the death toll,
despite the fact that Nepal is highly populated.
Nepal was hit by an earthquake of lesser magnitude (7.8 magnitudeapproximately 7.6 mega
tonnes of TNT explosive) as compared to the one
in 1934 (8.0 magnitudeapproximately 15 mega
tonnes of TNT explosive). The slight increase of 0.2
in magnitude, given the quality of subsoil, would
have meant an energy release approximately twice
of what was felt now.
The devastation seen this time has been the result
of lack of building norms, or bye-laws in Nepal.
Repeated warnings by seismologists and scientists
were ignored by the Nepalese administrators,
resulting in the widespread devastation that one
witnesses today.


Given its location on a high-risk seismic zone, Nepal

would do well to formulate and follow the kind of
building bye-laws that India has devised. This is the
only method to rebuild its cities with earthquake
resilient structures, and ensure the kind of damage
it has suffered for now never recurs again.
The author is an Associate Professor , Centre for Disaster
Mitigation and Management, VIT University, Vellore.
GeoGraphy and you May - June 2015


E A R T H | QU A K E


May - June 2015 GeoGraphy and you

According to the 2011 Census,

Bihar suffers from a large
proportion of dilapidated houses
that are susceptible to earthquakes.

By Anil K Sinha and Asif Shahab



Awareness on how to deal with disasters can significantly

prevent trauma-related issues, as also deaths and injuries
caused by earthquakes in seismically active regions.

GeoGraphy and you May - June 2015


wo recent earthquakes struck Bihar

in April and May 2015. The first of
these occurred on April 25, 2015 at
11:56 am Nepal Standard Time (NST)
at a depth of approximately 15 km.
Initially reported as 7.5 moment magnitude (Mw)
by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) it
was quickly upgraded to 7.8 Mw minutes later.
Being a shallow earthquake, it was more damaging
than the ones originating deeper, with its epicentre
approximately 34 km east-southeast of Lamjung,
Nepal. It lasted approximately twenty seconds and
claimed thousands of lives, rendering millions
homeless. In Bihar, 61 people died while 163 people
were injured, as per the Department of Disaster
Management, Government of Bihar statistics.
The second earthquake occurred on May 12,
2015 at 12:51 NST, with a 7.3 Mw , with its epicentre
18 km southeast of Kodari, located between Kathmandu and Mt. Everest, close to Tibet. Tremors
from this earthquake were also felt in Bihar, Uttar
Pradesh, West Bengal and other Indian States.
However, most deaths and injuries from these
earthquakes have not been due to falling debris or
being trapped within collapsed homes and buildings alone. Panic, cardiac arrest and stampedes
have contributed to many lives lost and grievous
injuries. Many unaware of the basics of how an
earthquake strikes even took to jumping off high
structures, resulting in injuries or death. Students
and teachers of a secondary school under UNICEF
supported school safety programme (Bisfi Block,
Madhubani district) asserted that earthquake (EQ)
safety awareness helped students play a proactive
role at the time of the earthquake (EQ)using the
basics of drop, cover, hold, controlling rumours,
taking shelter at identified safe locations, post
earthquake actions, and the like. These exercises
also went on to prove that earthquakes dont kill
people, buildings do. In parts of the northern
districts of Bihar, damage to public and private
buildings have been unevenly distributed and not
merely confined to a fixed area.
Taking cognizance of the situation, the Bihar
State Disaster Management Authority (BSDMA)
started gathering technical and other information
from various sources following the disaster, to
chalk out a strategic disaster management plan.
BSDMA also sent teams to the border areas of Bihar
and Nepal to observe the impact of the earthquake
and analyse human behaviour post earthquake.
Observations based on field level study, broadly

May - June 2015 GeoGraphy and you

indicated the following:

Those who knew about the dos and donts of
earthquake behaved in a more responsible manner than those who did not know.
Many suffered from fear and anxiety several days
later, and felt shaky.
A large number of people continued staying in
parks and open spaces for several days after the
Religion played an important role in providing
immediate relief as a psycho-social healer.
Earthquakes left a long-term impression on peoples minds .
Nausea, vomiting, and a rise in heartbeat were
common outcomes for those who lived through
an earthquake.
The study also unearthed three types of disaster
personalitiesfreeze, panic, and, proactive. Collating the mixed responses from people, it was
found that despite their nervousness, those aware
of what to do and how to react when a forceful
quake hit them, did much better than those totally
ignorant. Thus, it was clear that no matter what the
catastrophe is, it is vital to be prepared. With the
right knowledge and the right equipment, it is possible to survive an earthquake of any magnitude.
It also proved that once a plan is in place, one only
needs to implement the tools necessary to keep safe.
In addition, reviewing disaster management plans
regularly with ones family ensures that they know
what to do when disaster strikes.
In Bihar, low cost and informal buildings collapsed, as anticipatedmeaning that earthquakes
disproportionately affect the poorest in the community, and end up leaving them poorer. Although
the technology and skills to eliminate high fatalities
are available, people do not care to use them in their
daily lives.
One must understand that earthquakes are not
just a natural crisis: they reflect a poverty crisis.
This is a development problem of a State characterized by the failure to incorporate risk and resilience
into long term planning. In Bihar, buildings arent
designed or engineered, they are just built. A simple
intervention can make a huge difference, though
the infrastructure must also be appropriate for the
particular setting. An earthquake should not be
the impetus to build back better after lives have
already been destroyed. Building better should
start from day one.
Reports from the field also indicated how peoples
perceptions and attitudes towards earthquake

One cannot control seismic

hazard, but working
towards the adoption and
enforcement of building
codes is a doable goal.
risk are shaped by religion, custom and social
norms. Most respondents, including the priest of
a renowned temple, viewed earthquake as an act
of God. People belonging to all faiths considered
earthquake a divine punishment. Religion is a
particularly important driver of perceptions and
behaviour. These two dimensions of belief that
emerge most prominently in the context of disaster
risk reduction (DRR) form an obstacle to reducing
risk and can influence peoples understanding of it.
A team from All India Institute of Medical
Sciences, AIIMS Patna that visited Nepal for postdisaster relief following the April 25 quake found
at least 40 per cent people in the Himalayan and
border regions of Bihar and Nepal suffering from
vertigo, vomiting, headache, dizziness and fear.
The case report suggests that medical disorders due
to quake phobia have emerged as a major problem
which needs to be tackled. This general loss of health
is being termed the Post Nepal-India Earthquake
Syndrome (PINES).
The region most affected by PINES is the region
around Kosi, Gorakhpur and north Nepal extending to Betia, Motihari, Sitamarhi, Muzzafarpur,
Bhagalpur, Darbhanga, Madhubani, Samastipur,
Siwan, Chhapra, Patna and Vaishali districts in
Bihar. People unable to overcome their trauma
suffer from quake delusions and spend their nights
staring at their ceiling fans anticipating another
round of quakes.
Herein, it is important to assess the condition
of houses as per the 2011 census, which had taken
into account the seismic vulnerability of houses.
According to data collected for the 2011 census,
Odisha, Assam and Bihar suffer from the largest
proportion of dilapidated houses. Odisha leads
with 9.9 per cent of houses being dilapidated, followed closely by Assam (8.3 per cent) and Bihar
(7.4 per cent). At the district level, similar trends
are available with Saran reporting 8.6 per cent of

dilapidated houses, with Sitamarhi (6.2 per cent)

and other districts recording figures a little above
or below the state average.
But, Bihars 36.1 per cent good houses and 7.4
dilapidated houses do not quite constitute a major
chunk of all houses in the State. The indicator condition of houseslivable offers an insight into the
problem. Classification dealing with the livable
category, shows that Odisha leads with 62.1 per
cent of livable houses, followed by Bihar (55.6 per
cent) and Assam (55.4 per cent). On the other hand,
a relatively prosperous state such as Kerala (38.4 per
cent) has a far less proportion of houses in the livable category. The livable category lies somewhere
between dilapidated and good. A livable house
may not be dilapidated but it does not assure the
safety and strength of a good house.
Bihar is clearly a seismically active zone. It is hard
to say exactly when and where the next earthquake
will strike, although we do know that big quakes
are inevitable. Yet throughout the region, buildings continue to be poorly constructed that topple
easily during earthquakes. Contractors here fail to
adhere to building codes. Whats more, the existing
building codes often only apply to civic structures
not peoples homes. As a result, in the event of an
earthquake, these dwellings collapse, killing many.
Although one cannot control the seismic hazard
in a region where you live, but working towards the
adoption and enforcement of up-to-date building
codes is a doable goal. Evaluating older buildings
and retrofitting them with structural and nonstructural components can also prove strategically
crucial for the community. To survive and remain
resilient, communities should strengthen their core
infrastructure and critical facilities so that essential
services remain unaffected in the event of an earthquake or any other disaster.


Planning for the next earthquake should start today

in earnest. The process begins with a commitment
to end poor quality housing that has caused so much
needless loss of life. Modern buildings constructed
in keeping with the right building standards could
have withstood the jolt felt in Bihar. Fatalities from
earthquakes being a manmade problem; one needs
to veer towards a manmade solution.
The authors are Vice Chairman and Project Officer, Bihar
State Disaster Management Authority, respectively.
GeoGraphy and you May - June 2015


The simplicity of the traditional structure

was an essential attribute of safe
construction. A simple rectangular or
square plan was followed with the height
restricted to double the length of the
shorter side.


May - June 2015 GeoGraphy and you

Photo courtesy: Piyoosh rautela

E A R T H | QU A K E

tr aditional

E arthquakEs
By Piyoosh Rautela
Traditional building techniques have always existed
in regions vulnerable to earthquakes. Unfortunately,
aspirations to modernity have tended to bury these
norms, resulting in heavy casualties in recent times.

GeoGraphy and you May - June 2015


ust as other tectonically active regions of

the world, Uttarakhand too has witnessed
devastating earthquakes in 1720 (Kumaun
Earthquake), 1803 (Garhwal Earthquake),
besides the Uttarkashi and Chamoli earthquakes in 1991 and 1999. Despite these, hundred
year old multi-storied houses are common in the
region. Barring cattle sheds, single storied structures are practically never built. Both Kumauni and
Garhwali have distinct words for the four different
floors of a house, linguistics suggesting the prevalence of multistoried houses since ancient times.
Ghot, chak, pan and chaj in Kumauni, and koti,
manjua, baund and baurar in Garhwali indicate
the four different floors of a traditional home. Thus,
the people of the region adapted themselves to
natural disasters by settling on firm, high ground,
and based on traditional knowledge devised a set
of rules and architectural styles to be followed for
their own safety.
Site selection: Before undertaking construction,
the suitability of the place and bearing capacity was
assessed. This assessment could well be based upon
soil texture, composition and presence of humus
and moisture. There could well be an objective
algorithm where final comments would depend
upon the correlation of the observed variables.
Foundation: As a rule, foundation was dug
until firm ground or in situ rocks were reached.
Customarily, the foundation would be exposed
to rains. This ensured that the ground was settled
and settlement cracks common to present day
constructions could be prevented. Tall buildings
were constructed on raised and elaborate stonefilled solid platforms raised directly above the filled
in foundation trench. The height of such platforms
varied between 6 and 12 feet above the ground.
Dry stone masonry was used for the construction
of these platforms so that the centre of gravity and
centre of mass were in close proximity and close to
the ground. This minimised an overturning effect
during seismic loading.
Simplicity: The simplicity of the structure was an
essential attribute of safe construction. A simple
rectangular or square plan was followed with the
length of the sides varying between 4 and 8 m. The
ratio of the two sides of the structure varied between
1.1 and 1.4 and the height was restricted to double
the length of the shorter side.
This was in keeping with building codes that
prescribe simple rectangular symmetrical plans

May - June 2015 GeoGraphy and you

with respect to both mass and rigidity so as to

minimise torsion and stress concentration.
Small openings: Openings in the walls cause
weakness and therefore additional reinforcement
was often resorted to overcome it. Traditional
houses here have always had a single small entry
and relatively small windows. Strong wooden
empanelment around all openings compensated
for the loss of strength. Besides seismic safety, this
helped in energy conservation.
The walls: In keeping with the precepts of seismic
safety, people meticulously used wood and stone
in different shapes and sizes for the construction of walls for seismic safety. Besides the use of
corner and through stones, ample wooden beams
were provided.
Consequently, it resulted in a mixed structure
with two types of load sharing mechanisms;
Vertical load being taken care of by thick walls
running in all four directions, and
Horizontal load being taken care of by interconnected wooden joists running in both directions.
On the two sides of the structure, wooden beams
were often provided from the outside. This is
a special provision of shear keys to enhance
seismic performance.

how could they do so?

Experimenting with designs to validate their efficacy during earthquakes is not that easy, especially
since earthquakes do not return within short
intervals. Detailed documentation of both, the
design utilised for construction of the building and
performance of the building during subsequent
earthquakes therefore becomes necessary.
Oral tradition may not have been the only mode
of transmission where such elaborate design and
planning in artisanal skills is concerned, passed
down from generation to generation.

present scenario

A study done in the urban areas of Mussoorie,

Nainital and Bageshwar has revealed that more
than 15 per cent of the buildings fall in the highest
damage grade. The situation in the rural areas is
also equally deplorable.
How has this happened, despite a rich prevailing
tradition in earthquake-resistant construction?
Masons from this region had perfected the art of
constructing safe houses using locally available
stone and wood. Environmental consciousness over

Dismantling traditional wood

and stone roofs and replacing
them with RCC slabs so that
these could resemble modern
homes ended up making them
far more vulnerable.

the past few decades has resulted in restrictions on

quarrying and felling. Reduced availability of wood
and stone combined with the growing demand of
houses in urban areas has led to the introduction of
brick, cement and RCC construction in the region.
Yet, the necessary technology transfer and capacity
building with regard to new building materials did
not accompany this change. Newer houses were
thus constructed by masons who lacked the know
how of using new building materials, resulting in
its vulnerability.
With the affluent class alone able to construct
so-called modern houses, the latter ended up being
recognised as symbols of vertical mobility and a
higher social status. Consequently, many took to
dismantling their traditional wood and stone roofs,
replacing them with RCC slabs so that these could
resemble modern homes. Since the traditional
stone walls were not designed to take the load of
RCC slabs, they ended up as far more vulnerable.
In fact, the heavy toll in the Uttarkashi Earthquake
is attributed to this practice; the collapse of many
traditional homes resulted in RCC slabs crushing
hapless victims.
Restricted availability of wood and stone has
also had an adverse impact on the maintenance
of houses in recent times. The central wooden log
supporting the weight of traditional roofs have
often not been replaced by many householders,
making them vulnerable. The heavy toll in the
1999 Chamoli Earthquake is attributed to the lack
of maintenance of traditional homes. In turn, the
destruction of many traditional homes, as also
widespread advocacy in favour of new construction material have shaken the peoples faith in
traditional construction practices.
The increase in tourists and pilgrims visiting

the region in recent times has found many locals

keen to cash in on the business boom. This has, in
turn, seen many put up guest houses and hotels to
make the most of this opportunity. A network of
ill-reinforced and unplanned beams and columns
that defy the slope of hills of Uttarakhand are in
place today. Even riverbeds have been encroached
upon to make a neat profit out of tourism. Heavy
structures sited over elongated columns and
multiple storeys on steep hill slopes are the bane of
Devprayag, Karnaprayag, Almora, Rudraprayag
and Bhatwari. Except for a few urban areas, building
codes are non-existent. Even where well-defined
building codes are in place, enforcement is weak
and defaulters get their constructions regularised
by paying penalties if reprimanded.
Awareness is recognised universally as being the
key to popularisation of earthquake-safety norms
and making the environment resilient. But few give
adequate attention to this important aspect.
Firstly, despite being aware of the seismic vulnerability of a region, people remain oblivious to the
nature of the risk of such an event. Secondly, people
fail to realise that losses from an earthquake can be
easily reduced by following certain technological
norms. Thirdly, on site technical support remains
as yet unavailable to the masses. Fourthly, technical
know how remains unavailable in the vernacular.
Fifthly, the financial implications of using earthquake-safe construction techniques are yet to be
understood by the masses.
In the aftermath of the April and May 2015
Nepal earthquakes, the situation is grim. Seismologists globally have cautioned us that the
Nepal earthquakes are only the tip of the iceberg,
and a precursor of a great Himalayan earthquake
which can strike anytime soon. The challenge lies
in preparing ourselves in time before a situation far
worse catches us napping.

Way forward

The road map to make our communities earthquake-resilient is simple and straightforward. BIS
codes and model building bye-laws have been in
existence for a long time. We only need to translate these to the ground through right planning
and implementation. For this, we need local-level
assessment through detailed studies of the existing
building stock and mass awareness of the risks of
ignoring building codes.
This will need to be accompanied with access
to information and easy-to-understand technical
GeoGraphy and you May - June 2015


solutions for risk reduction, encouraging people to

undertake appropriate measures for improving the
seismic equations of their houses. Only then can
we expect voluntary compliance with disastersafety measures.
We also need to accept that rural houses would
continue to be constructed without appropriate
engineering inputs. Special emphasis needs,
therefore, to be given to the capacity building
of village level masons. Organised institutional
arrangements have to be established for the same
and incentives have to be devised for people to take
up these courses. The shortage of engineers can be
overcome by making available customised ready
to use drawings to those desirous of building their
homes. These could easily be done through state
sponsored housing schemes.
Building bye-laws can easily be made compliant
with BIS codes and an effective mechanism devised

May - June 2015 GeoGraphy and you

to ensure compliance of these. Non-compliance of

bye-laws will need to be dealt with stern punitive
action and engineers preparing and certifying the
building details should me made accountable for
any lapses or losses on their part.
At the same time, traditional construction practices can be improvised so as to keep them in tune
with prevailing ground realities.
Lastly, we need to understand that disaster
management can never be on the political radar
of parties, since the outputs are largely intangible
and not likely to result in electoral benefits. Mass
awareness and advocacy for a disaster resilient
community are the only routes for the safety and
security of the masses.
The author is Executive Director, Disaster Mitigation
and Management Centre, Uttarakhand Secretariat,

Photo courtesy: Piyoosh rautela

As opposed to traditional
structures, a network of illreinforced and unplanned
beams and columns that
defy the slope of hills of
Uttarakhand are in place
today. Heavy structures
on steep hill slopes are
the bane of Devprayag,
Karnaprayag, Almora,
and Bhatwari.

Term Power

Answers on PAge 52


1. Aftershock

a. An aftershock is a smaller
earthquake tremor that occurs
after a previous large earthquake,
in the same area of the main
b. An aftershock is a brilliant
reading of the causes of our
current earthquakes, with a plan
for dealing with its challenging
c. A movie directed by NicolsLpez in 2012.

2. Seismometers

a. It is an application which is
used for analysing annual rainfall.
b. It is an instrument used to
detect and record seismic waves
produced by earthquakes and
other seismic sources.
c. It is an instrument that
works on a GIS platform
and gives precise location
where earthquakes can

Photo courtesy: IcIMoD, NePal

3. Disaster

a. It is the practice of making

money by the media and its
reporters through disaster
b. It is the practice of taking an
opportunity to fell trees that are
damaged during a catastrophe,
whether natural or manmade.
c. It is the practice of exploiting
a natural disaster, a miserable
condition or emergency situation
for selfish advantage.

4. Survivalism

a. It is the first single off the

industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails
2007 album Year Zero.
b. A person who has personal or
group survival as a primary goal in
the face of difficulty, opposition.
c. It is a movement of individuals or
groups who are actively preparing
for emergencies.

5. Richter Magnitude

a. A scale used to measure the

amount of energy released by an
b. A machine used by seismologist
to express seismic energy.
c. A plane that flies above an
earthquake region to map the scale
of destruction.

6. Megathrust

a. Stress accumulation that occurs

between two locked plates results
in potentially destructive type of
b. The planets most powerful
earthquake with moment
magnitude that can exceed 9.0.
c. This is a phenomena that is also
known as an interplate earthquake.

7. Earthquake swarms

a. It is an event where a local area

experiences sequences of earthquakes striking in a short period
of time.
b. A phenomena where one
earthquake triggers a series of

other large earthquakes along the

same plate boundary as the stress
transfers along the fault line.
c. Building debris after major earthquake in a particular region.

8. Soil Liquefaction

a. Soil loses strength and

stiffness in response to an
applied stress, usually earthquake shaking.
b. Soil degradation due to over
pollution after an earthquake in a
local area.
c. Phenomenon witnessed every
time Obituary plays Redneck
Stomp live.

9. Plate Tectonics

a. Study of soil structure of different

layer of earth's crust.
b. The study of how earths lithospheric plate move around in relative
motion to other celestial bodies.
c. The movement of the Earth's
continents relative to each other,
thus appearing to 'drift' across the
ocean bed.

10. Disaster

a. Response to an earthquake
hit area.
b. Forecasting and taking
precautionary measures prior to
an inevitable threat when advance
warnings are possible.
c. Preparedness to combat earthquakes by tuning in to earthquake

GeoGraphy and you May - June 2015


R ep o R t | Wat ch

Towards Risk Sensitive Development

he 4th edition of the United Nations

Global Assessment Report on
Disaster Risk Reduction released in
2015 has noted that 25 years after
the UN Member States adopted the
International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR) and ten years after the adoption of
the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA), global
disaster risk has yet to reduce significantly.
Although improved disaster management has
led to reductions in mortality in some countries,
economic losses have reached an average of 250
billion USD to 300 billion USD each year. Worse,
the mortality and economic losses associated with
extensive risks in low and middle income countries
are trending up.
Changing temperatures, precipitation and sea
levels, are already exacerbating disaster risks.

May - June 2015 GeoGraphy and you

Noting that the ecological footprint of overpopulation has exceeded the planets biocapacity by 50
per cent, the report has warned that sustainable
development can never be achieved unless disaster
risk is reduced. Between 1980 and 2012, around
42 million life years were lost in internationally
reported disasters each year. Of this, over 90 per
cent of the total loss was spread across low and
middle-income countries.
A new Global Risk Assessment highlights that
the average annual losses (AAL) from earthquakes,
tsunamis, tropical cyclones and river flooding
are now estimated at 314 billion USD in the built
environment alone. Since 2007, more than 120
countries have undergone legal or policy reforms,
over 190 have established focal points for disaster
risk reduction and 85 have created national multistakeholder platforms.

Investment decisions rarely

take into account the level of
hazard in locations of cheap
labour, export infrastructure,
easy markets, etc.
Increasing hazard exposure

Photo courtesy: Goonj

Future of disaster risk reduction will

depend heavily on ensuring that all
future development is risk-sensitive.
The road network in Uttarakhand is
a case in point that got washed away
during the June 2013 flashfloods.

In practice, however, most resources and efforts

have been towards strengthening capacities for
disaster management. Little progress has been made
to ensure that norms and regulations are adopted by
various sectors. Nor has there been much engagement with the private sector on this account.
Although investment in risk identification and
assessment and risk information has increased
considerably, it has not generated a culture of
prevention and hence, disaster risk reduction. This
is because the risk information is rarely translated
into risk knowledge for potential users. Besides,
once complete recovery is achieved, most countries
do not bother to build back better, but revert to
business as usual. Thus, evidence indicates that the
integration of disaster reduction into sustainable
development policies and planning, has only seen
limited success.

With global GDP per capita having increased by

122 per cent between 1990 and 2010, and economies
getting more globally linked, investment tends to
flow to locations that offer comparative advantages,
such as low labour costs, access to export markets,
infrastructure, stability and other factors. Investment decisions rarely take into account the level
of hazard in those locations. Consequently, large
volumes of capital continue to flow into hazard
prone areas, leading to significant increase in the
value of exposed economic assets.
Significant progress made in risk financing
following the HFA, has seen few low and middleincome countries develop mechanisms to access
capital markets for risk financing. Consequently,
few households and businesses have access to
catastrophe insurance.
In the coming decades, disaster risk reduction will
depend heavily on ensuring that all future urban
development is risk-sensitive. Disaster and climate
risks in development will need to be approached
through strengthened governance in sectors and
territories, with risk management to ensure that
risks are appropriately managed in new investments
as also corrective risk management in existing
capital stocks. This will also need the generation of
risk information to be translated into risk knowledge for better social protection mechanisms.
Noting how countries like Bangladesh, Chile and
India have reduced disaster mortality significantly
by improving development indicators, better
disaster risk management and accurate forecasts,
the report notes that it is important for the executive, legislative and judicial mechanisms in any
country to work in tandem to design a system
wherein disaster risk reduction realises its potential
to emerge as a truly transformational force.
Inputs from Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk
Reduction 2015
GeoGraphy and you May - June 2015


E a r t hqu a k E | fa c t f il E

Quick facts
It is estimated that there are 500,000 detectable
earthquakes in the world each year. 100,000 of those can
be felt, and 100 of them cause damage.
During the 1960 Valdivia earthquake (Chile), which
mapped 9.5 on the Richter Scale, seismographs
recorded seismic waves that travelled all around the
earth. These seismic waves shook the entire earth for
many days.
A M7 quake (an earthquake of magnitude more than
equal to 7 in the richter scale) can potentially oscillate
the whole planet for minutes and even influence Earths
Its geographical location at interplate boundaries
make Japan one of the most earthquake prone nations of
the world.
Earthquakes kill approximately 8,000 people each
year and have caused an estimated 13 million deaths in
the past 4,000 years.
Buildings can be made 100 per cent safe for people to
combat earthquake stress.
The massive magnitude 8.8 earthquake that struck
the west coast of Chile on February 27, 2010 moved the
entire city of Concepcion at least 10 feet to the west.
The longest earthquake in recorded history took place
on December 26, 2004 in the Indian Ocean. Also referred
to as the Sumatran earthquake, it lasted for 10 minutes
and triggered tsunamis that affected 11 countries and
killed more than 2,25,000 people. According to the
United States Geological Survey, it is estimated to have
released energy equivalent to 23,000 Hiroshima atomic
bombs. The resulting tsunami travelled as long as
5000 km and created waves that rose as high
as 50 feet.
The worlds first earthquake detector was designed by
Chang Hng, a Chinese astronomer. The instrument was
said to resemble a wine jar, six feet in diameter and could
reportedly detect a four-hundred-mile distant earthquake.
Inputs from USGS, NIDM.


May - June 2015 GeoGraphy and you

The Earthquake


Greek Mythology: The Greeks hailed

Poseidon as the God of Earthquakes
and believed that whenever irked, he
would hit the Earth with his trident,
which would result in earthquakes and
other calamities.

Norse Mythology: The Norse attributed earthquakes to Loki, the Norse

God of mischief and strife. The story
goes that after tricking Hod into slaying
Baldur (Norse God of purity and light)
Loki was sentenced and chained in
a cave with a snake-mounted above
his head, venom dripping. Lokis wife
Sigyn stood by him, with a bowl in her
hand to catch the poison. Whenever
she missed, the poison would fall
on Lokis head, which makes him
shake his head resulting in violent
Indian Mythology: The earth is held
up by four elephants that stand on the
back of a turtle, Kurma Raja. The turtle
is balanced atop a cobra. When any of
these animals move, the earth trembles
and shakes.

Japanese Mythology: The Japanese

believed that earthquakes are caused
by a giant catfish, they called Namazu.
Namazu is believed to dwell beneath
the earth in the mud and is guarded by
God Kashima. It is when Kashima lets
his guard down, Nazamu ventures out
causing earthquakes.


In | br Ief

Injection Induced Earthquakes

A type of seismic activity induced by humans, injection induced earthquakes are mainly
caused by modern extraction techniques. Such techniques produce large quantities of
wastewater along with oil and gas. These are generally disposed by deep injection into
the subsurface that releases enough energy in the strata to trigger an earthquake. The
earthquakes are in many instances large enough to be felt and cause damage. Science has
revealed that many detected earthquakes and seismic activity in the United States are injection induced. Even fluid extraction at a rate that causes subsidence and/or slippage along
planes of weakness in the earth may cause such earthquakes.

Fracking underway in
an undisclosed location
in the United States,
that reportedly causes
induced earthquakes.

GeoGraphy and you May - June 2015


In | br Ief

eArthquAke techNologieS
Countries around the world are coming up with technologies that could
potentially aid in preparing for the next quake and responding to it
effectively. Read on to know about the latest advancements in the field.

NASA techNology helped fiNd

buried eArthquAke victimS
iN NepAl
Thanks to NASA technology that detects peoples
heartbeats, four survivors of the Nepal earthquake who were
buried under building rubble were rescued, the Los Angeles
Times reports. Developed by the Department of Homeland Securitys Science and Technology Directorate, Washington, and
NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, this
radar based app is known as Finding Individuals for Disaster and
Emergency Response, or FINDER.
FINDER sends a microwave signal into the debris, looks for
changes in the reflections of those signals coming back from tiny
motions caused by victims breathing and heartbeats. FINDER
searches for the unique characteristics of human breathing
and heartbeat to distinguish between humans, animals, and
mechanical movement. According to its developers, it can
also distinguish between multiple victims, since each persons
breathing and heartbeat patterns are different.
Source:, May 11, 2015

could thiS
deSigN mAke
houSeS more
A team of civil engineers
in Stanford has developed
an inexpensive design modification that could be incorporated
into new homes to reduce damage in an earthquake. The developer team believes that these earthquake resistant homes could

May - June 2015 GeoGraphy and you

stand up to most major quakes.

The research team, from Stanford University, equipped seismic isolators to a two story building which allowed the ground
to move independently of the structure above it. As a result, the
house, instead of collapsing skated on the trembling ground.
They also installed extra-strength walls, to create a model home
that might replace the need for residential earthquake insurance.
The house that Stanford built had two major modifications to
stave off earthquake damage. For one, it was not affixed into a
foundation, but rested on a dozen steel-and-plastic sliders, each
about 4.5 inches in diameter. Under those sliders were either
plates or bowl shaped dishes made of galvanized steel. Isolators
have been used for commercial buildings for many years but
have been too expensive to use on homes until now.
Source:, May 15, 2015

3d imAgeS of
NepAl to help
relief effortS
Researchers at the University of New Brunswick
are using satellite images
to map Nepal in 3D and aid rescuers and other organisations
in understanding how the topography has changed after the
earthquake. The team has been working on mapping Canada and
the United States in 3D for years, but they focused their mapping
on Nepal to provide updated information on the countrys new
landscape. Once completed, the team intends to publish all the
3D maps online for free to give workers in Nepal and the general
public an idea of the treacherous terrain and how it has shifted in
the wake of its recent quakes.
The images must be viewed with special 3D glasses.
Yun Zhang, the head of the 3D mapping project, said that a

three-dimensional view can provide invaluable information

to rescuers. He emphasised on the fact that the amount of
information that can be taken from a 3D image far surpasses
that taken from a two-dimensional one. With a 2D picture
you see white and you think well thats snow, that must be
mountains but in 3D you can see the cliff shears, you can see
how dangerous Nepals mountains are and understand why it
takes rescuers so long to get places, he added. The team is
also working on building before-and-after comparison models
of the region.
Source:, May 13, 2015

JApAN uNveilS
AirbAg eArthquAke
protectioN for
A Japanese company has
devised an ingenious
method of protecting buildings from the violent shaking of an
earthquake; fitting homes with giant airbags that enable them
to float through the tremors.
When an earthquake strikes, a sensor within the property
detects the movement and activates a compressor that pumps
air into bags beneath the building within one second. The air is
sufficient to lift the structure off its foundations and maintain it
at a height of about 3cm (1.2 inches) for as long as the ground
continues to shake. A valve that is within the structure controls
the amount of air that is being forced beneath the building
to keep it steady and upright. Footage of tests on the system
shows the house remaining almost perfectly stationary while
the foundations and ground shake for several seconds.
Once the system senses that the tremor has ended, the air
is gently let out of the bags and the house settles back onto its
foundations. Air Danshin Systems Inc. is presently fitting the
device to around 100 properties across the country, according
to Hiroshi Hosoda, a spokesman for the firm.
Source:, May 18, 2015

belt techNology offerS

quick repAir
Researchers from the
University of Sheffield
in South Yorkshire have developed a cheap and simple
technology to repair earthquake-damaged buildings and make
them safe and habitable. The technology involves wrapping
metal straps around each floor of the building which are then

tensioned either by hand or by using compressed air tools. It

functions like a weight lifters belt, keeping everything tightly
compressed to reduce tension on the concrete columns of the
It is designed for use on reinforced concrete frame buildings
a common construction technique around the world. Unlike
other repair methods, it does not require expensive materials
or a high-level of technical knowledge, making it ideal for use
in the developing world. The research team affirms that the
new technology will not only speed up the response to major
earthquakes but could also prevent the damage happening
in the first place. Moreover, the cost of the materials for a
typical small building column is about 20 pounds and it would
take a crew of two people around two hours to complete the
strengthening. The team tested the technique on a full-scale,
two-story building which had inadequate reinforcing to
withstand earthquakes. With the post-tensioned metal on,
the building efficiently withstood an emulation earthquake
measuring 7 Richter.
Source:, May 7, 2015

wArNiNg oN A
Countries looking for
cost efficient earthquake
warning systems might
want to try apps and
smartphones after scientists discovered that smartphones could
be used as an affordable alternative to sophisticated earthquake
monitoring networks. The global positioning systems (GPS) in
smartphones could detect earthquakes and trigger warnings
seconds before the strongest waves from the quake begin,
researchers wrote in Fridays American-based journal Science
Although many parts of the world are prone to earthquakes,
systems that detect the start of an earthquake and send
warnings to people before they feel the ground shaking are
operating in only a few regions, including Japan and Mexico.
GPS receivers in smartphones, though less accurate than the
scientific-grade equipment, could detect medium to large
earthquakes like the 7.0 magnitude quake that rocked Haiti in
2010, killing more than 200,000 people. After analysing the
2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami, researchers concluded
that lives could have been saved if GPS data had been used to
send warnings before seismic waves reached Tokyo and before
the deadly tsunami wave reached the shore. The researchers
didnt specify if smartphone users would receive warnings
through messages, calls or applications.
Source:, April 10, 2015
GeoGraphy and you May - June



E A R T H | QU A K E

Building on a flood plain

and a fault zone
By Staff Reporter
A nation that seeks to educate the common man about the pitfalls of
poor siting on one hand, chooses to do an exact opposite on the other.

elhi is fragile, especially at its

seams, commonly known as the
fault line. Designated in Zone
IV, Delhi is situated atop three
active seismic fault linesSohna,
Mathura and Delhi-Moradabad. A cursory glance
at the India Meteorology Departments first level
seismic hazard microzonation map of Delhi (Fig
1.) reveals a high hazard scenario in north, northeast and eastern part of Delhi. A multitude of
studies, by researchers and scientists of eminent
organisations, costing the country thousands of
crores, point out safer areas in Delhi. One would
assume that builders would be aware of hazard
regions and would optimally utilise this information for safer homes and offices. However, that
is not the case. Private builders neither heed the
scientific zonations, nor do they follow building
codes laid out by Bureau of Indian Standards. The

May - June 2015 GeoGraphy and you

outcome is ill-ventilated, over-crowded, fragile

structures that house large number of poor and
middle income groups.
Not wanting to be left behind, the Indian government too joined the builder bandwagon with
an ultra-luxury apartment, the Commonwealth
Games (CWG) Village, in the Yamuna flood plain,
in the midst of the most hazard prone area of Delhi.
In the process of being sold to the whos who of
India and abroad, this so called most desirable
place to live is a befitting example of how lightly
the government heeds its own warnings.
What is in question here is the sheer impertinence
of a government that seeks to educate the common
man on an exact oppositeof not building on a
flood plain, that too an earthquake prone one.
It is not as if sound construction cannot be made
in earthquake prone areas. But, as per the Comptroller and Auditor Generals report (performance

North West

Low hazard
Moderate hazard
High hazard



South West

Source: India Meteorological Department,

Ministry of Earth Sciences

audit report on XIX CWG- 2010) that too was

compromised. Emaar MGF awarded most of the
construction work to Ahluwalia Contracts (India)
Limited. Central Building Research InstituteRoorkee (CBRI) was appointed as the third party
independent quality inspection agency only in May
2008, by which time most of the foundation work
had been executed. As such the CBRI was unable
to assure the quality of the foundation laid. In our
opinion, this is a serious lacuna, considering the
site location and the height of the structure the
Report said.
Delhi Development Authority (DDA) is all set to
auction premium apartments at Commonwealth
Games Village in June, 2015. The land owning
agency will conduct an electronic auction and has
fixed Rs 7 crore as the reserve price for the units.
As per news reports, officials have also said that
gauging the demand for these houses the final

North East



Fig. 1: Seismic Hazard

Microzonation Map of
NCT Delhi



price will be much more. GnY correspondent

speaking with Manoj Misra, head, Yamuna Jiye
Abhiyaan, said, we hold that CWG village in the
flood plain is nothing short of a towering folly.
An outright example of bad and poor planning,
despite timely warnings from not just environmentalists but urban planners of repute like K T
Ravindran. It was known all along that this site is
flood prone and not fit for permanent constructions, certainly not high rises, which could tumble
in the event of an earthquake hitting the seismic
category IV city. No wonder that there are few
takers for these so called prime location flats.
Governments may change, but the intent remains
the sameprofit. Looking towards earning a
whopping 1000 crore from the sale of these flats, it
is a clear example of how the present government
lacks the conviction to implement its policies on
disaster preparedness.
GeoGraphy and you May - June 2015


E A R T H | QU A K E

Career in
By Anup Kumar

India is a country prone to natural and anthropogenic disasters. There is

thus an earnest need for persons trained in disaster management.

hazard is any abnormal

status of its people, India remains
natural activity that The salary package
extremely vulnerable to natural
can prove dangerous.
and anthropogenic disasters.
However, this does not and position a disaster
In addition to frequent natural
always have an impact management professional
disasters like flood, drought,
on human life or property. When
landslide, earthquake, forest fire,
there is loss of human life and prop- commands depend on his
cyclone, tsunami, avalanche, and
erty, then a hazard is interpreted as a expertise and experience.
heat waves, India continues to
disaster. In the present era disasters
remain vulnerable to anthropohave increased several fold. As the
genic disasters like rail, air, road
seventh largest and second most populated country and industrial disasters too. Over, 68 per cent of
in the world, with a vast range in its geological and the country is drought prone; 60 per cent is earthgeomorphological settings, as also socio-economic quake prone; 12 per cent flood prone and 8 per cent

Table 1: Courses offered in various Colleges and Universities


Courses offered

Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), New Delhi

Certificate Course and PG Diploma in Disaster Management (distance mode)

Vardman Mahaveer Open University, Kota

Certificate Course and PG Diploma in Disaster Management (distance mode)

Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, New Delhi

MBA in disaster management (weekend course)

Punjab University, Chandigarh

PG Diploma in disaster management (regular course)

Annamalai University, Annamalai Nagar, Tamilnadu

Masters in disaster management (distance mode)

Chaudhary Devi Lal University, Sirsa

PG Diploma in disaster management (distance mode)

National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM), New Delhi

Short term online courses on various types of disasters and mitigation measures

Madras University, Chennai

PG Diploma in disaster management (regular course)

Tripura University, Tripura

Masters in disaster management (regular course)

Centre for Civil Defence College, Nagpur

PG Diploma in fire engineering and safety(regular mode)

Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai

Masters in disaster management (regular mode)

Indian Institute of Remote Sensing, Dehradun

M Sc in geohazards (regular course)

Indian Institute of Technology, Roorke

M Tech in earthquake engineering (regular course)

Disaster Management Institute, Bhopal

Training and research in disaster management

Disaster Mitigation Institute, Ahmedabad

Training and research in disaster management


May - June 2015 GeoGraphy and you

Disaster management
programmes at grass roots
are an imperative in India.

GeoGraphy and you May - June 2015


Surya Prakash
Associate Professor,
Management and
Communication Division
and Leader, World
Centre of Excellence
on Landslide Risk
Reduction, New Delhi.

The frequency, InTensITy and extents of disasters are

increasing due to unregulated, unplanned and unscientific
developments, climate change, and concentration of unaware
and unprepared population in hazard susceptible areas. Thus,
there is a dire need of professionals and practitioners in disaster
management, who can analyse, assess, avert, prevent and mitigate
disaster risks as well as make people aware, informed and prepared
against disastrous situations.
T P Singh
Professor and Director,
Symbiosis Institute of
Geo-informatics, Symbiosis
International University
(SIU), Pune.

DIsasTer Is an inevitable phenomenon. Disaster management

plays an important role in the area of preparedness. The heavy
economic losses of disasters places emphasis on a disaster
preparedness policy. This in turn needs hundreds and hundreds
of disaster management professionals to help build disaster

cyclone prone (, 2005).

Since such a large area of India is vulnerable to
major disasters, it is necessary to have trained
personnel and resources to handle disasters effectively. Disaster management programmes at grass
roots and other levels are an imperative in India.
Today, there are number of universities and institutes imparting education and training in disaster
management. Some of the universities/institutes
running certificate, post-graduate, masters,
doctoral and post-doctoral programmes in disaster
management are given in table 1.

Career openings in disaster management

There are ample job opportunities for trained

manpower in various government and private
organisations in the country. Students of disaster
management can look forward to openings in the
government organisations (table 2).
Besides these organisations, several private
organisations require trained manpower for various
disaster management activities. A student with
basic knowledge in geology, geophysics, geography,
sociology, economics, psychology, environmental
science, climate science, agriculture, physics,
remote sensing, geographical information system,
ocean technology can avail of far more opportunities in disaster management. The salary package
and position a disaster management professional
commands depend on his expertise and experi38

May - June 2015 GeoGraphy and you

Table 2: Placements in Government Organisations

National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM), New Delhi

State government-run institutes of public administration, in each
Indian state

National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC), Hyderabad

Indian Institute of Remote Sensing (IIRC), Dehradun
Space Applications Centre (SAC), Ahmedabad
State remote sensing applications centre in each state of the

State government-run departments of disaster management in

each state of the country

Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration,


India Meteorological Department (IMD), New Delhi

National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT), Chennai
Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), New Delhi
Indian Red Cross Society, located in each state of the country
Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune
Teaching jobs at the university/institute/college levels in India and

Research positions in disaster management in various Indian and

foreign universities

SAARC Disaster Management Centre, New Delhi

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
ence. However, disaster management is certainly a
good option for those desirous of studying natural
and anthropogenic activities, while striving to
lessen losses to human life and property.
The author is Assistant Scientist (Geology/Geophysics)
Haryana Space Applications Centre, CCS HAU Campus,
Hissar, Haryana.

In | br Ief
Guwahati falls in the very
severe intensity zone and
is the topmost earthquake
prone city in India.

The top 10

Earthquake Prone Cities

The recent Nepal earthquake is a sinister reminder of
the susceptibility of the Indian subcontinent to destructive earthquakes. The Bureau of Indian Standards
(BIS) documents that almost 65 per cent of the land
in India is vulnerable to earthquakes of intensity MSK
VII (Medvedev-Sponheuer-Karnik, a seismic intensity
scale). The Indian plate thrusting into the Eurasian plate
is the primary reason that puts the entire subcontinent
at a very high risk. A seismic zoning map issued by the
Bureau of Indian Standards has categorised Guwahati
and Srinagar under the very severe intensity zone, or
Zone V, the highest-risk earthquake zone of the country.
The map, also quoted in the National Disaster Management (NDM) report Urban Earthquake Vulnerability
Reduction Project, identified the following cities to be
amongst the top ten earthquake prone cities of India:
Guwahati (Zone V); Srinagar (Zone V ); Delhi (Zone IV );
Jamnagar (Zone IV); Patna (Zone IV); Meerut (Zone IV);
Jammu (Zone IV); Amritsar (Zone IV); Jalandhar (Zone
IV); and, Dehradun (Zone IV). Apart from these, the map
encompassed 28 other cities that fall under Zone III
which is a moderate intensity zone.
GeoGraphy and you May - June 2015


In | con v er s at Ion

high Risk-high Gain

Changing Facets of Indian Research

Asutosh shARmA, secretary, Department of Science and
Technology, in a fresh new take, shares his views about risk taking in
science with the editor GnY.
Q. Do you think that the trajectory
of scientific research in India has
been satisfactory or is there a need
to change the approach for result
oriented and need based research?
One cannot generalise in extremes. It
is like asking if the people of our nation
are rich or poor. India is a big country
and owing to its size and diversity,
there are all kinds of people in our
country. There can be no single answer
to it. Similarly, there exists certain
sections/departments in the nation that
are more result oriented than others.
There are good scientists and mediocre
scientists, there are departments that
are more aggressive towards results,
and there are departments that focus
more on the research than the goal.
An adage that its more important to
participate than win a prize is a cultural
disposition that is strongly tied to
the core of Indias ideologies. It thus
depends upon the perspective of an
individual, which is as diverse as the
country itself. Some people are goal
oriented while others just believe that
the means are as important as the goal.
You see, Indian science is beset
by a plethora of issues. In fact the

number of scientists in India is pretty

lowpresently there are below 200
scientists per million population.
Most developed countries like South
Korea, US, Japan, etc., have 60008000 scientists per million population.
Compare that to 200now thats
a challenge. Thus, scientists do not
have enough people to interact with,
which actually limits the exchange
of scientific ideas. In addition, we
rarely demand for the top bracket of
technology; we care more for cost
effectiveness and functionality.
Q. As you are heading Indias
Department of Science and
Technology, do you want your people
to be result oriented?
They have to be result oriented, but by
utilising the right processes. There is
a profusion of processes involved in
every endeavour to reach a goal. It is
highly important that these processes
are structurally tuned so that the goals
are achieved more effectively and in a
shorter time.
In India, scientists have to wait
a long time to even know whether
their projects are going to be funded;

May - June 2015 GeoGraphy and you

We aim to ameliorate the quality

of research in India. The high
risk - high gain idea is going to
aid this significantly and steer
scientists in the direction of
quality rather than quantity.

GeoGraphy and you May - June 2015


sometimes this wait can be long

and tedious. And, changes seep by
the time the project gets a green
flagtechnology changes, science
changes and even the focus may
change. In my opinion, it is not fair
for an aspiring researcher to wait this
long for his project to be sanctioned.
I think the entire process needs to be
reconfigured, so that a scientist can
start his research within three to four
months of his submission. In fact the
submission to funding process should
not last more than four months.
We also have to keep in mind that
everyone involved in the process
should have enough professional
reason to accelerate the part they play
and thereby help sharpen our system.
Q. How is streamlining these
processes coming along?
No, these processes have not been
implemented yet. They are just being
introduced. Our objective is to get
there effectively within the shortest
time possible and in conformation
to global benchmarks. There is also
another aspect that I am excited to
introduce into DSTthe high risk
high gain projects. This is perhaps the
first time that such projects are being
introduced in India. Mostly, a scientist
is expected to succeedwe value
success very highly. But, science by
nature is an uncertain pursuit. We want
to encourage scientists to take risks.
Of course not absurd risks; but logical,
well calculated risks. This would, in
fact, help us in identifying the causes
of any failure and also come up with
contingency plans.
So, we are encouraging scientists
to go ahead without hesitancy to opt
for high risk high gain projects. I

Science by nature is an
uncertain pursuit and
we want to encourage
scientists to take risks.
believe that this approach will result in
inspiring discoveries.
Q. Your dream project is about an
application based smart phone? Can
you please elaborate?
I am looking forward to steer such a
programme in the recent future. This
would go miles in empowering people
to be self-dependent, especially rural
India. What I envision would be the
easiest way in utilising a platform
that has sound penetration like
say smartphones, with advanced
technology including integrated optical
sensors, computational powers and
high speed RAM. Lets say we come
up with some testing tools in the form
of an external sensor or chip that
could be connected to a smartphones
interface. So, you connect the chip
to your smartphone and put a drop of
water on it and it effectively measures
the quality of the water droplet for
you. It would be wondrouscheap,
reliable, user friendly and accessible
for everyone. People would be able
to do a plethora of necessary things
themselves like monitoring the quality
of food, water, drugs, and more.
Q. What is your vision for DST?
We lack scientists in India. I feel an
urgent need to increase this; our

May - June 2015 GeoGraphy and you

nation needs more scientists. I also

feel that there is a dearth of research
infrastructure in the country.
We (DST) are in the process of
introducing a special fellowship
programme for research scholars who
have proven research credentials, but
are unable to complete their work.
Along with fellowship, we will also
provide necessary funds so that they
can go to a neighbouring university
or research institutes to complete
their research. They will be monitored
constantly for evaluation. Also, we
would expect them to publish at least
one paper a year. The aim behind this
would be to armour ourselves with
a bigger workforce. We will induce
R&D institutes and universities to
accept them and sweeten the deal with
financial aid.
I think this is going to go well with
these institutes and universities as well
because not only are they going to get
a workforce and be paid for it but also
enjoy widespread exposure with their
names on each research paper. It is a
win-win situation for both.
Secondly, we aim to ameliorate the
quality of research in India. The high
risk - high gain idea is significantly
going to aid this and steer scientists
in the direction of quality rather than
quantity. We also have thought of a few
other programmes specially tailored to
address the issue of quality.
Thirdly, within our resources and
mandates, we are trying to encourage
the industry to connect with academia,
so they could work together for precise
deliverables of the industrial sector.
The ultimate aim is to produce results
for industrial R&D which in turn is
expected to generate new economic
opportunities for the nation.

R ep o R t | Wat ch
By Staff Reporter

The Land Acquisition

An Update
The present government has placed a huge stake on the Land Acquisition
Amendment Bill. It is convinced that without it all the proposed schemes
in the social sector and reforms in the industry will not take place. It
also treats two classesconsent and social impact assessment, as
major hurdles in achieving its objectives. Only time will tell whether the
government has got the correct assessment of the ground situation.
The provisions

The Union Cabinet on May 30, 2015 chaired by

the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has given its
approval to amend the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition,
Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment)
Ordinance, 2015. According to the Indian government, the changes in the provisions of the Act will
facilitate farmers to get better compensation and
rehabilitation and resettlement benefits in lieu of
land compulsorily acquired.
The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and
Resettlement Act, 2013 (Land Act, 2013) came into
effect from 01.01.2014. However, it was reported that
many difficulties were being faced in the implementation of the Act. In addition, procedural difficulties
in the acquisition of lands required for important
national projects needed to be mitigated. In order
to remove them, certain amendments were made in
the Act while further strengthening the provisions
to protect the interests of the affected families.

In view of the urgency, these were brought about

by an Ordinance on 31.12.2014. Subsequently, on
10.03.2015 the Lok Sabha passed the Amendment
Bill to replace the Ordinance. The Amendment
Bill passed by the Lok Sabha includes some further
changes to the Ordinance. The important changes
brought about by the amendment are as follows:
Compensation in accordance with the First
Schedule and rehabilitation and resettlement
specified in the Second and Third Schedules of the
Act are extended to the Thirteen Acts mentioned
in the Fourth Schedule of the Land Act, 2013,
namely, - (1) The Ancient Monuments and
Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958, (2)
The Atomic Energy Act, 1962, (3) The Damodar
Valley Corporation Act, 1948, (3) The Indian
Tramways Act, 1886, (4) The Land Acquisition (Mines)Act, 1885, (6) The Metro Railways
(Construction of Works)Act, 1978, (7) The
National Highways Act, 1956; ( 8) The Petroleum
and Minerals Pipelines (Acquisition of Right of
User in Land) Act, 1962; (9). The Requisitioning
GeoGraphy and you May - June 2015


and Acquisition of Immovable Property Act, 1952;

(10) The Resettlement of Displaced Persons (Land
Acquisition) Act, 1948; (11) The Coal Bearing
Areas Acquisition and Development Act, 1957
(12) The Electricity Act, 2003; (13) The Railways
Act, 1989.
In order to expedite the process of land acquisition for strategic and development activities such
as national security or defence of India including
preparation for defence and defence production;
rural infrastructure including electrification;
affordable housing and housing for poor; industrial
corridors set up by the appropriate government
and its undertakings (in which case the land
shall be acquired upto 1 km on both sides of the
designated railway line or roads for such industrial corridors); infrastructure projects including
projects under public private partnership where
the ownership of the land continues to vest with
the government, it is empowered to take steps
for exemption from social impact assessment
and special provisions for safeguarding food
security. In addition acquisition for such projects
are exempted from the consent provisions of the
Act as well. However, the government is required
to ensure that the extent of land for the proposed
acquisition is the bare minimum land required
for the project. The government is also required to
undertake a survey of wastelands including arid
land and maintain a record detailing the same.
Prior to the amendment, the provisions of the
Land Act 2013, extended to a private company.
However, as per the Companies Act, 2013, a
Private company means a company having
a minimum paid-up share capital of one lakh
rupees or such higher paid-up share capital,
thereby restricting the provisions of the Act to
such companies only and excluding other form
of companies like proprietorships, partnerships,
corporations, nonprofit organizations, etc. Therefore, in place of the term private company, the
term private entity has been substituted thereby
including all non governmental entities.
Further, as the Land Act, 2013 was drafted prior
to the passage of the Companies Act, 2013, the
Act referred to the Companies Act, 1956 for the
definition of Company; which is substituted by
the Companies Act, 2013.
In cases where land acquisition process under
Land Acquisition Act, 1894 had been initiated
and the Award was passed, but either possession of

May - June 2015 GeoGraphy and you

land was not taken or compensation was not paid,

there is provision of lapsing of such proceedings
after five years of passing of Award. The period
during which the proceedings for acquisition
of land was held up on account of any stay or
injunction issued by any court is excluded for the
purpose of calculation of five years period. Similarly the period where possession has been taken
but compensation is lying deposited in a court or
in any designated account is also to be excluded in
the calculation of the five years.
Section 46 of the Act was amended to clarify that
provisions relating to rehabilitation and resettlement in case of land purchased through private
negotiations is applicable in cases when land is
purchased by persons other than the government,
government company and trust or society aided
or controlled by the government.
To facilitate the process of hearing of objections
by land losers, the authority, constituted for this
purpose, shall hear such objections within the
district where the land has been acquired.
When an offence under this Act is committed by
any person who is employed in the central or state
government at the time of commission of such an
alleged offence, the court will take cognizance of
offences under this Act provided the procedure
laid down in section 197 of the Code of Criminal
Procedure, 1973 is followed.
The period provided in Section 101 for return of
un-utilised land has been modified to five years
or the period specified for the completion of the
The provision of removal of difficulties was made
applicable to the entire Act rather than Part as
the word part was used in the Act inadvertently.
Further, the time period to remove the difficulties
was extended from two years at present to five

The Background

The Department of Land Resources (DoLR) is

administering the Land Act, 2013. This Act came
into force on 01.01.2014 by repealing the Land
Acquisition Act, 1894. It was observed that some
provisions of the Act were making the implementation of the Act difficult and this made it necessary
to bring changes in the Act, while safeguarding the
interest of farmers and affected families in cases of
land acquisition.
Accordingly, a conference of state revenue

ministers was organised in Delhi in June, 2014.

Suggestions received from the state governments,
union territories, ministries/departments and other
stake holders were considered. Further, consultations with secretaries and officers of concerned
ministries administering the Acts were held in
October, 2014. Based on these discussions and deliberations, some amendments were proposed in the
Act. Accordingly, the Cabinet in its meeting held on
29.12.2014 approved the proposal of the Department
of Land Resources to amend the Land Act, 2013
and to promulgate the Right to Fair Compensation
and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Ordinance,
2014. The Cabinet also approved the proposal of
the Department to introduce a replacement bill in
the Parliament to replace the Ordinance. Accordingly, Land (Amendment) Ordinance, 2014 was
promulgated on 31.12.2014. The Budget Session of
the Parliament that is the 4th Session of the 16th
Lok Sabha and the 234th Session of Rajya Sabha
commenced on 23.02.2015.
The Bill was taken up for consideration and passed
by the Lok Sabha on 10.03.2015 incorporating the
official amendments to the Bill. The Minister of
Rural Development has also given notice for Motion
for Consideration and Passing of the Bill Passed in
Lok Sabha to the Secretary General Rajya Sabha on
13.03.2015. However, the Bill could not be taken up
for consideration in the Rajya Sabha as the Rajya
Sabha was adjourned on 20.03.2015.

The analysis

The propriety of the Indian government was

questioned when the Ordinance on the Land
Acquisition Bill was promulgated second time on
May 30, 2015 as the Bill was being considered by a
Joint Committee of the Parliament. But procedurally, there was no other option left to the government
as the first Ordinance would have lapsed on June 4,
2015. The Joint Committee headed by S S Ahluwalia
was asked to submit its report to the Parliament by
the first week of the Monsoon Session.
The Joint Committee is faced with strong views
on the issue. The foremost has been the assertion of
the leaders of five farmer organisations who made
their representations before the Joint Committee.
They expressed their reservations about a number
of clauses in the Ordinance and the subsequent Bill,
including the consent and retrospective clauses. The
representatives of the farmers association feel that

Trying to push through seemingly

industry-friendly amendments
to the Land Act 2013 may prove
to be the present governments
biggest policy gamble.
any amendment to Section 24 (2) of the Act, which
deals with the retrospective application of the new
legislation, will result in losses to the farmers whose
land had been acquired under the old 1894 Act and
who are yet to accept any compensation till date.
Trying to push through seemingly industryfriendly amendments to the Land Act 2013 may
prove to be the present governments biggest policy
gamble. The stubbornness on the part of the current
government has angered many of its own allies.
The opposition too is unhappy over the expansion of the list of projects to be exempted from the
consent clause as also with doing away of the social
impact assessment requirements in the proposed
Ordinance. Besides, it has also diluted the provisions
for return of acquired land to the original owners
if not utilised after five years, while also making it
more difficult to prosecute civil servants in case of
violations under the Act.
However, under the oppositions fire, the government subsequently relented partially to drop an
amendment extending the relaxations to even land
acquired for private hospitals and educational institutions. In all, nine amendments were made in the
Bill introduced in Parliament to replace the second
Ordinance, but no concessions were made on the
most significant prior consent and social impact
assessment clauses.
It can be perhaps judged from the present mood
of the government that they would want to go
ahead with the Bill come what may. Procedurally,
the Bill has be passed by both the Houses before the
Ordinance lapses. If it fails in the Rajya Sabha, then
the next course of action will be to opt for a joint
sitting of both the Houses for which the Constitution provides a long ropethe joint sitting should
be held within six months after the Rajya Sabha fails
to pass the Bill. The six months actually denotes 180
sittings of the Parliament which would probably
take around two years to complete. Till then all the
provisions of the Ordinance remain in force.
GeoGraphy and you May - June 2015


Eco | sys t Em

Bangladeshs Sundaban is facing

recurring toxic contamination. It
is perhaps time that shipping is
reviewed and routes revised.


May - June 2015 GeoGraphy and you

By Staff Reporter

Bangladeshs Sundarban


the alarming rate of wrecks in the Sundarban raises a larger

question. Why is there no alternative safer route envisaged in a
time bound manner by Bangladesh?

GeoGraphy and you May - June 2015


our months after the calamitous 2014

Sundarban oil spill, the UNESCO
World Heritage Site recently became
victim to yet another similar fortuity.
A large vessel containing 500 metric
tonne (MT) of potash sank into the Sundarban,
maculating the entire stretch of the protected eco
sensitive area. The ship, MV Jabal-e-Nur, was on
its way to Baghabari in Sirajganj from Harbaria
in Mongla (Fig 1) when it struck a sandbar. It
subsequently submerged as its keel ruptured in the
According to local sources, the ship struck
the sandbar at around 5 pm on May 3, 2015 and
succumbed to the strong tidal waves while two
rescue vessels tried to move the cargo during the
high tide. As the cargo sank during high tide,
the ships booty spread across a vast area of the
mangrove forest and is speculated to impact the
ecological balance, although no official reports
have surfaced as of yet.
The Sundarban, the worlds largest tidal
mangrove forest, is one of the most biodiverse
places on the entire planet. About 40 per cent of
it lies in India while the rest, with the most dense
outcrops lies in Bangladesh ( Several
endangered species like the Ganges River Dolphins,
the rare Irrawady dolphins, the Royal Bengal tiger,
the endemic river terrapin, the olive ridley turtle,
the saltwater crocodile are found here. It also is
inhabited by the horseshoe crab, known as a living
fossil as it has been dated to 400 million years.
The MV Jabal-e-Nur incident is fourth in a
succession of shipwrecks that have potentially
threatened the ecodiversity of the Sundarban in
last eight months. Two cement laden ship emptied
all its content in September 2014, followed by a
tanker carrying flyash two weeks later, and the OT
Southern Star-7 with 358,000 litres of heavy fuel oil
in December, the same year.
The alarming rate of wrecks raises a larger
question; why are commercial vehicles laden with
pernicious chemicals allowed to ply across such
an ecologically treasurable stretch keeping in
mind that the Bangladesh governments disaster
management expertise is still at a deplorable level.
Ironically, fishing is not allowed inside the Sanctuary. These devastating statistics demonstrates
the Bangladesh governments negligence in maintaining this World Heritage Site and exhibits how

May - June 2015 GeoGraphy and you

Why are vessels laden with

pernicious goods allowed to ply
across an ecologically treasurable
stretch knowing that Bangladeshs
disaster management expertise is
still at a deplorable level?
vulnerable the Sundarban is to the threats posed by
industrial shipping.
Shipping activity in this region harms not only
the environment and ecology but also poses a
serious threat to human life as well. Professor
Abdullah Harun Chowdhury, a teacher of Environmental Science of Khulna University said, The
cruising of water vessels causes serious harm to the
Sundarban, which shields the coastal areas and the
people from tidal waves and cyclones.
The navigation route through the Sela River (Fig
1) is unauthorised, yet almost 200 boats and vessels
carrying oil, flyash, cement and other hazardous
chemicals ply the route daily. Interestingly, the
Bangladesh government opened the Sela river route
just weeks after the 2014 Sundarban oil spill.
The OT Southern Star-7 accident actuated in
December 9, 2014 on the Sela River. The vessel,
laden with 3,50,000 litres of furnace oil, was at
anchor at the confluence between the Sela and the
Passur River enveloped in a dense river fog when
a cargo vessel collided with it at wee hours of the
morning. By December 17, the oil had spread
over a 350 square km and then to a second river
and a network of channels in Sundarban, which
blackened the entire coastline. Reportedly the
oil eventually spread to shroud an area of 34,000
Until 2010, commercial vehicles utilised the
Ghasiakhali River to commute between Mongla
top Morrelganj and Chittagong. Consequently,
the Government of Bangladesh (GoB) closed the
Mongla-Ghasiakali route encouraging the local
strongmen to acquire the area for shrimp fishing
farms. The GoB has also reportedly built embankments to protect these interests.
With the end of the Ghasiakhali River route,
commercial interests were focused on the two
nearest alternative riversthe Sela and the Passur.

Fig. 1: Shipping routes through Bangladesh


Rampal Fulhata




Ghasiakhali River



Passur River
2014 oil spill

Bangladesh India Protocol Route
Old Shipping Route (before 2011)

Commercial Shipping route through Sela River

UNESCO World Heritage Site

The effects of the present commercial shipping route

in the Sundarban is extremely deleterious.
Bangladesh is not armed with technology or human
resource to handle mishaps of this magnitude.

Although the routes lead through ecologically

vulnerable patches that house dolphin sanctuaries,
protected habitats of crocodiles and migratory
birds, commercial interests seldom comply with
environmental regulations.
Moreover, with a proposed thermal power plant
set to come up a few kilometres upstream from the
mouth of the Sundarban, soon coal will need to
be imported to the area. Without any progress in
dredging the Ghasiakhali, traffic through the ecosensitive mangroves is only set to increase.
Environmentalists in Bangladesh have been
vocal in their response to the present transit route.
People working on the grass root level have opined
that the GoB needs to put a stop to the prevailing
route through the forest as soon as possible. Apart
from the Mongla-Ghasiakhali route, government
could also work on navigability in the Atharabeki
The dredging on the Ghasiakhali River is
ongoing in order to revive its navigabilitybut the
progress of work is very slow. On the other hand,
no government initiative is yet underway to restore
the Atharabeki River. If the two routes are in good
shape, the vessels will not need to sail through the
forest, opines Chowdhury.
Government sources affirm that the MonglaGhasiakhali was closed for five years due to siltation.

Re-excavation work started last year and so far, an

estimated 47 per cent of the job has been completed.
Sugata Hazra, director, School of Oceanographic
Studies, Jadavpur University, Kolkata, also
supported Chowdhurys statement and stated that
the GoB hasnt undertaken any serious measures
yet. The May 4 incident magnifies the threat
putting a stop to plying commercial vessels through
this route is the first step and the GoB should rejuvenate the alternate navigation route via Baleswarif
needed it can very well seek international help to
protect the world heritage site, he said.
Hazra also believes that cost consideration
for a-round-about has prevented the GoB from
opening up new shipping routes that avoid the
The effects of the present commercial shipping
route are obvious. And to top it, the GoB is not
armed with technology or human resource to
handle mishaps of this magnitude. The government has also turned a deaf ear to the UNs urging
of imposing a complete ban on the movement of
commercial vessels through the Sundarban.
The GoB needs to treat this incident as the
final blow and accord utmost priority to creating
and managing alternative trade routes. It needs
to address the illegality and recklessness which
underlies these mishaps with utmost urgency.
GeoGraphy and you May - June 2015


Eco | sys t Em

By Staff Reporter

Pethia striata

Western Ghats newly discovered member

The new species will be an addition to Cyprinidae, the
largest family of fish that encompasses other common
fishes like the gold fish and the common carp.

new species of fish has been discovered in the Western Ghats in India.
Named Pethia striata, the fish
was uncovered in a stretch of the
Tunga River that falls within the
Kudremukh National Park, in the central part of
the Western Ghats, Karnataka.
V M Atkore, an ecologist and a PhD student
at the Bangalore-based Suri Sehgal Centre for
Biodiversity and Conservation, was studying the
effects of habitat disturbance on fish biodiversity
in the Kudremukh National Park when he stumbled upon this discovery. It was May 9, 2011, he
recollects, when I saw this fish. I am conversant
with the aquatic life of the region as I have studied

May - June 2015 GeoGraphy and you

it extensively, but this was a fresh specimen. He

promptly send photographs to K Rema Devi,
incharge, Southern Regional Centre of Zoological
Survey of India, who confirmed his hunch of this
being a hitherto undiscovered species.
Atkore and his team concluded that the 3-4 cm
long species were distinct in several ways, but the
most striking characteristics were the pattern
of scales, which form oblique bars and the black
blotch just before the tail. Very distinct rings are
also visible in both the sexes.
The American Society of Ichthyologists and
Herpetologists, in the journal Copia, documented
that the new species is distinguished from its
congeners by the combination of the following

A specimen of the newly discovered

fish, with clear oblique markings
and a blotch near its tail.

PhoTo courTesy: VM aTkore

The discovery of new species is possible in the less disturbed streams, and such
discoveries are important to increase conservation efforts for the biodiversity hotspots
such as the Western Ghats.
characters: absence of barbels; stiff and serrated
last unbranched dorsal-fin ray; complete lateral
line with 2021 poured scales and a relatively small
humeral spot one scale below the fourth lateralline scale; a large black blotch covering lateral-line
scales 1719. In addition, the outer edges of body
scales are dark, producing a striped pattern along
the sides of the body.
In an interview with GnY correspondent,
Atkore revealed that the Pethia striata is found
only in the two streams of Mudba and Turad,
a region populated by wet evergreen and semievergreen forests. Though I have studied
other river systems in Karnataka and Goa like
Bhadra, Malaprabha and Mhadei, I havent come
across this species at all. It is typically restricted
to these headwaters with medium to dense
forest canopy.
The teams study also reveals that these little fish
generally gather in small groups of 3-4 individuals
in shallow pools with gently flowing water. Experts
stated that the new species would be an addition to

Cyprinidae, the largest family of fish that encompasses other common fishes like the gold fish,
zebra fish, and the common carp.
Numerous species with near similar description, encountered elsewhere in India, Bangladesh,
Myanmar, and Sri Lanka, have been referred to
as Pethiaticto.
The Western Ghats, is one of the three biodiversity hotspots of India and one of the eight hottest
hotspots in the world. And, like most others, is
under the constant threat of habitat destruction.
Atkore professed that increasing human presence
puts pressures on the natural resources and freshwater diversity is very sensitive to changes like water
diversion and dams. He also said that discovery of
new species is possible in the less disturbed streams,
and such discoveries are important to increase
conservation efforts for this area.
Some of the other recently discovered new
species in the Western Ghats include a little
jumping spider in the Southern Ghats, a new frog
species in Central Ghats.
GeoGraphy and you May - June 2015


Term Power raTing



1 to 5 Correct - Informed
6 to 8 Correct - Knowledge bank
9 to 10 Correct - Encyclopaedia
Ans. a: It is a smaller earthquake tremor that occurs
after a large earthquake, in the same area of the
main shock. It results from the sudden change in
stress occurring within and between rocks and the
previous release of stress brought on by the principal
earthquake. Aftershocks occur in rocks located near
the epicentre or along the fault that harboured the
principal earthquake.

2. Seismometers

Ans. b: They are instruments used to detect and record

earthquakes. It is used for measuring the direction,
intensity, and duration of earthquakes by measuring the
actual movement of the ground.

3. Disaster


Ans. a: It is the practice of exploiting a natural disaster,

a miserable condition or emergency situation for one's
selfish advantage. This term was used to describe the
US Governments reaction over Hurricane Katrina.

4. Survivalism

Ans. c: It refers to a movement of individuals or groups

who are actively preparing for emergencies including
possible disruptions in social or political order, on scales
from local to international. These individuals/groups are
called survivalists or preppers.

5. Richter Magnitude

Ans. c: The Richter magnitude scale is used to measure

the amount of energy released by an earthquake. Also
known as Richter scale, it is used by seismologist to
express seismic energy. Nowadays, moment magnitude
scale is preferred because it works over a wider range
of earthquake sizes and is applicable globally.


May - June 2015 GeoGraphy and you

6. Megathrust

Ans. a: Stress accumulation that may occur between two

locked plates can result in potentially destructive types of
earthquake. It occurs at subduction zones at destructive
plate boundaries, where one tectonic plate is subducted
by another. Since 1900, all earthquakes of magnitude 9.0
or greater have been mega thrust earthquakes.

7. Earthquake swarms

Ans. a: It is an event where a local area experiences

sequences of many earthquakes striking in a relatively
shorter period of time. Earthquake swarms are typically
witnessed before volcanic eruptions.

8. Soil Liquefaction

Ans. a: Soil Liquefaction refers to the phenomenon

whereby soil loses strength and stiffness in response
to an applied stress, usually earthquake, shaking or
other sudden change in stress conditions. This prompts
the soil to behave like liquid. The strength of the soil
decreases and, the ability of a soil deposit to support
foundations for buildings and bridges is reduced.

9. Plate Tectonics

Ans. a: This is the study of the structure of different

layers of the earths crust. The lithosphere of the earth
is divided into a small number of plates which float on
and travel independently over the mantle and much of
the earth's seismic activity occurs at the boundaries of
these plates.

10. Disaster Preparedness

Ans. b: Disaster preparedness encompasses very

concrete, research based actions that are taken as
preliminary steps in the face of probable disasters
based on advance warnings.

Photo courtesy: IcIMoD, NePal

1. Aftershock

Eco | sys t Em

Asiatic Wild Water Buffalo

male at Kaziranga National
Park, Assam.


May - June 2015 GeoGraphy and you


last of
the true
Photo: Pranav Das

The resemblance to their domestic seers has placed them at the fag
end of everyones interest and this perpetual neglect, has in turn,
pushed the entire species to the edge of extinction.

GeoGraphy and you May - June 2015


remember the first time I saw a wild water

buffalo in the Kaziranga National Park. It
wasnt exciting in the leastI was waiting
to catch sight of tigers, rhinos, bears. Instead
here was a great big buffalo lazing in a swamp.
Twenty years later,and perhaps wiser, I realise that
I am not alone. The resemblance to their domestic
seers has placed them at the bottom of the viewers
list and this perpetual neglect has in turn, pushed
an entire species to the edge of extinction.
In 1986, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature(IUCN) listed the Asiatic Wild
Water Buffalo (Bubalusarnee) as endangered in its
Red List, as the remaining population totals less
than 4,000, with an estimate of fewer than 2,500
mature individuals (IUCN, 2008). A more recent,
2013 IUCN report states that the highest ranking
state is Assam with about 3,000 bovines.
Although the Wild Water Buffaloes may bear a
likeness to their domestic counterparts, they are
much bigger in size reaching a height of six feet and
weighing between 700 and 1200 kg. They possess
massive chests, with rather short legs. Ranging
from ash grey to murky black, both sexes sport
coarse, long and sparse hair on their haunches. A
little tuft on the forehead and a bushy tail-tip is also
not uncommon. Their large and splayed hooves
help them move around in muddy water bodies.
The most striking feature of these bovines are
however, the long, crescent shaped horns of the
males, stretching close to 5 feet (1.5 meters) in
length with deep crests on their surface. Extending
sideways from the skull, the horns curve backwards
in a majestic bow. In the Indian buffalo, the horns
often curve in a semicircle, while those from Thailand and Cambodia have horns that spread much
more to the side with minimal curvature at the tips.
Females possess comparatively smaller horns.
The Asiatic Wild Water Buffalo spends most of its
time submerged in murky waters or wallowing in
mud as it protects them from biting insects. These
timid bovines are seen in small to medium herds,
often led by an adult female. The calves follow the
females with the remaining adults at the rear. They
are known to be exceptionally protective of their
young and when threatened the females form a
protective line in front of the herd.
Asiatic Water Buffaloes are endemic to Indias
tropical wet grasslands and densely vegetated river


May - June 2015 GeoGraphy and you

valleys. Apart from India, they are also found in

Nepal, Cambodia, Bhutan and Thailand. Although
records indicate their presence in Pakistan,
Bangladesh, Laos and Vietnam, today they are
exterminated in these regions.
Assam houses the major population in India,
followed by Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya. A
small population is also found scattered in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha. In Assam,
the species is found in Manas, Laokhowa and
Dibru-Saikhowa Sanctuary apart from Kaziranga
National Park.
The chief threats that endanger the water buffalo
are poaching, loss of habitat and interbreeding
with domestic and feral counterparts. Diseases
and parasites (transmitted by domestic livestock)
and competition for food and water between wild
buffalo and domestic stock are also serious threats.
After a population decrease by over 50 per cent over
the last three generations, wild buffaloes are now

Photo: Pranav Das

Endemic to Indias tropical wet grasslands and densely vegetated river valleys, Wild Water Buffaloes are much bigger in
size as compared to their domestic counterparts, reaching a height of six feet and weighing between 700 and 1200 kg.

found only behind the protective fences of wildlife

sanctuaries (IUCN, 2008).
Specialists claim that it is difficult to map the
integrity of the population of Asiatic Wild Water
Buffaloes as differentiating the animal from
domestic bovines is a major challenge. This,
according to wildlife experts, is the main reason
why preemptive action has been thwarted from
The GoIs conservation attempts to rescue the
buffalo population from its brink of extinction still
remains nebulous. Although official reports about
the GoIs recent interest and investments seem
heart warming, yet the efficacy of these steps are
yet to be palpable.
On December 11, 2011, the Indian government
declared the Kolamarka forest area in Gadchiroli
district, Maharashtra a Wild Buffalo sanctuary
to save the critically endangered wild buffaloes in
India, which was duly approved by the National

Board of Wildlife (NBWL). Interestingly, what

comes as a surprise is that the Kolamarka forest
area houses only 15 Asiatic Wild Water Buffaloes
while Assam is the home to 91 per cent of its global
population, yet no research study or conservation
programmes were initiated there.
Table 1: Reproduction and Development
Common name

Asian water buffalo

Scientific name


Other names

Arna, buffledeau,
buffle de lInde, bufaloarni

Head and body length

240-280 cm

Shoulder height

160-190 cm

Tail length

60-85 cm

Adult weight

800-1,200 kg

Gestation period

310-330 days

Sexual maturity

18 months

Litter size

Normally one
GeoGraphy and you May - June 2015


Recently, in June 2015, photographs of two

herds in the Kolamarka forest, Maharashtra, has
infused wild life enthusiasts with hope. The visuals
were captured by forest officials while monitoring
sensors used to track giant squirrels. According to
John Mathew, an expert member of the National
Biodiversity Authority, it was an extremely exciting
spectacle as these animals are absolutely wild
without any gene corruption. He also reportedly
spotted four females in the herd.
The Supreme Court on 2012, directed Chhattisgarh to abide by an Integrated Development of
Wildlife Habitats scheme to save wild buffaloes,
Chhattisgarhs state animal, from extinction. It
urged the State to take necessary steps to help cease
interbreeding between wild and domestic buffaloes.
It also directed the Central Government to fund the
States efforts. The Ministry of Environment, Forest
and Climate Change forwarded one-time grant of
Rs 1 crore to the State to jump start the Project Wild
Chhattisgarhs Chief Wildlife Warden, Ram
Prakash, talking to GnY correspondent seemed
passably optimistic about the conservation
attempts. Of late, there has been immense stress to
redeem the population of our Asiatic Wild Water
Buffaloes. Initially, there were 12 of these animals
in the Udanti Wildlife Sanctuary, of which only one
was female. We are relying on artificial reproduction techniques to bolster their population. As of
now, we have been successful with four calves, one
of which is female.
Talking about the obstacles posed by insurgency,
he added, considerable areas in the Indravati
National Park are controlled by insurgents and
it hampers wildlife protection activities. We
havent been able to conduct any census studies in
this Park.
In 2003, a three day workshop attended by the
IUCN SSC Asian Wild Cattle Specialist Group
attempted to build towards a conservation
programme for Asiatic Wild Buffaloes in India.
Co-hosted by the State Governments of Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh, the Wildlife Trust of
India, and the Satpuda Foundation, the workshop
concentrated on identifying methods of protecting
the Wild Asian Buffalo. The conclusion of the
summit was an action plan titled Status Review
and National Recovery Programme for Wild
Buffalo in India.
GnY correspondent spoke with Founder58

May - June 2015 GeoGraphy and you

The chief threats that

endanger the water buffalo
are poaching, loss of
habitat and interbreeding
with domestic and feral

President of Satpuda Foundation from Amravati,

Maharashtra, Kishor Rithe, whose interests and
efforts in this field are noteworthy. Unlike Prakash,
Rithe believes that the conservation efforts put
forth by the Indian government are at a very nascent
stage. I do not think the steps taken by Indian
government are enough to conserve this species. In
my opinion, both the state and central governments
need to urgently emphasise on proper surveys and
research to expedite sustained population. It is
also important that expert and local knowledge
be combined to provide recommendations to
address, he said.
A dip in the population of endemic species could
potentially upset the balance of its environment
and affect biodiversity. With increasing number
of endemic species on the brink of extinction, it is
perhaps time that we understood the importance
of lesser speciesas compared to the haloed
tiger. For a species, which was once ubiquitous,
to be relegated to an experiment in the laboratory
speaks volumes about the present state of affairs. As
the nations scientific strength rejoices over Indias
first successful attempt to clone the Asiatic Wild
Water Buffalo with the birth of a healthy female
calf on December 12,2014, at National Dairy
Research Institute (NDRI), Karnal, in Haryana,
we need to stand back and look at the big picture.
As Director in the Ministry of Social Justice and
Empowerment, and former Chief Conservator of
Forest, Sikkim, Anjan Kumar Mohanty told GnY,
that decline in endemic populations is particularly
alarming because the species only survives in a
restricted geographical area; it is progressively left
with a small gene pool and thus faces even higher
chances of being wiped out.

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May - June 2015 GeoGraphy and you

Carved into the Greater Himalayas,

these pleated moonlands are the result
of soil erosion and the draining out of
glacial lakes that once existed.

GeoGraphy and you May - June 2015


ur car zoomed along the LehSrinagar NH1 Highway with the

Ladakh Range sprawling in the
south and the Karakoram Range
in the north. The snow clad peaks
stood out in shocking contrast against the brown
and barren landscape, and there was not a patch of
green anywhere to soothe our sights. Amidst the
thorny bushes, a vibrantly hued Yellow-billed Blue
Magpie and a Chukar Partridge hopped along in
search of food, while square military barracks and
adventurous bikers on Royal Enfields were the only
reminders of human habitation.
Lost, imbibing the peace and quiet of Ladakh,
we had covered around 50 km in euphoric delight,
when my driver suddenly slowed down. Confused,
I anxiously enquired if anything was wrong. He
gave me a warm smile and moved his hands off
the steering. To my utmost amazement, I saw the
car moving uphill at a steady 20 km per hour (as
per the speedometer). I noticed a Border Road
Organisations signage indicating Magnetic
Hill The phenomenon that defies gravity on
the left side. An engraving Magnetic Hill on the
mountain wall repeated the message. I learnt not
only do vehicles travelling on the road experience
the magnetic attraction of the hill but aircrafts too
feel the tug, according to the Indo-Tibetan Border
Police (ITBP).Hence, pilots are advised to fly at a
specific speed and height above this hill to avoid
any inconvenience.
According to local folklore, the phenomenon is
the result of a pathway that led straight to heaven.
Deserving people would be automatically pulled
up,whereas the non-deserving would never make
it, no matter how earnestly they tried.
In actual fact, the magnetic hill is located on a
stretch where the layout and deceptive fields of
reference create an optical illusion wherein a slight
downhill slant appears to be an uphill one. Thus
a vehicle left on its own will appear to be moving
uphill. There is a concept of optical illusion in neuroscience, which means that you either see something
that is not there at all or you see things differently
from what they actually are. The phenomenon can
actually be attributed to a completely or near-total
obstructed horizon.
Since our mind and vision normally use the
horizon as a reliable reference to decide on whether
a particular gradient is straight or slanting, an
obscurity in the horizon makes it difficult to judge

May - June 2015 GeoGraphy and you

The merging of the mud laden Zanskar and shiny blue Indus.

the slope of a surface. If the horizon is obstructed,

our minds can often perceive things to be horizontal or vertical when they are actually not. The
short stretch of the road that appears to be uphill
is actually downhill and this is why cars gain
momentum. Of all the enchanting sites in Ladakh,
the Magnetic Hill at 14000 feet has a special
mystical attraction for all since ages and continues
to hold sway even today.
As we proceeded further, we sighted the Indus
running through the gorge alongside the road.
Originating from the Changthang desert in the
Himalayas, the Indus emerges as a full-blown river
in Ladakh, changing its colours from emerald
green to teal and shining cyan as it flows into the
Kashmir valley and onwards into Pakistan.
Draining the arid Ladakh terrain, the Indus
serves as a lifeline for Ladakhs shepherds and
farmers, especially since Ladakh gets just two to
three inches of rain per year. As we drive on, the
majestic confluence of Indus and Zanskar leaves
me awestruck.
It is the valley of Nimu which sports a perfect
blend of colours, across the skies and downwards
along the rivers. Zanskar, originating in the range
by the same name, runs through the spectacular
Zanskar Gorge. In winters, avid adventurers revel
in the frozen Zanskar for the chadar trek. The mud
laden Zanskar merges into the shiny blue Indus
from the north-eastern direction. The glossy blue
sky, and the barren mountains make the confluence
of the crystal clear Indus and the turbid Zanskar
an outstanding sight. In summer, (March-early
September) the turbulent Zanskar forms a plume
into the relatively tranquil Indus. But in the freezing
winter (September-February), the tempestuous
Zanskar slows down and freezes while the Indus
picks up speed.

The silk route in the backdrop of

moonlands, that once saw caravans
passing through, carrying wool,
cloth, opium, spices, skins, coral,
turquoise, gold, and indigo.
GeoGraphy and you May - June 2015


All through I saw prayer flags hung in sequenceblue, white, red, green, yellow with prayers scrawled on the flags for
the winds to carry and spread the message of peace and happiness.

Prayer flags always add to a touch of magic to

Ladakh, providing an ancient backdrop to modern
day lamas who walk around with iphones! All
through, I saw prayer flags hung in sequenceblue,
white, red, green, yellow or in reverse against the
clear azure skies creating a mesmerising effect.
Each colour represents an elementsky-blue,
wind -white, fire-red, water-green and earthyellow, and the prayers scrawled on the flags are for
the winds to carry to spread the message of peace
and happiness.
As we whizzed past scenes of schoolgirls clad
from top to toe walking back home, birds flying
over patchwork fields and tiny hamlets interspersed
with bulldozers engaged in widening roads would
emerge before us from time to time.
Contrary to general belief, the rugged topography
of Ladakh has nurtured a thriving trade along the
famous silk route. This trans-Himalayan trade
saw caravans negotiating winding routes through
hazardous passes carrying wool, cloth, opium,
spices, skins, coral, turquoise, gold, and indigo until
the first few decades of the last century.
The withering trade between Leh and Yarkand
(China) finally died a silent death in the late 1950s

May - June 2015 GeoGraphy and you

when China occupied Tibet and sealed its borders

with Ladakh.
For those who have always imagined what it was
to visit a lunar landscape, the silk route of NH1-D,
along the Srinagar-Leh highway is the perfect destination. Carved into the Greater Himalayas, these
pleated moonlands are the result of soil erosion and
the draining out of glacial lakes that once existed.
It was a surreal experience to see houses precariously perched on these moonlands at Lamayuru,
around 125 km from Leh, immediately after Fotu
La, the highest pass on the Srinagar-Leh highway.
The glacial lakes are believed to have drained out
through cracks in the hills during the time of
Buddhist scholar Neropa.
During the day, the Ladakhi landscape changes
its colours with the rays of the sun,from rock green,
to ochre, and then to blue. But the blends of colours
around the rivers and mountains in the barren
landscape take on a heavenly hue at night, when
the full moon and a thousand stars light up in the
vastness of the curvaceous moonlands.
The author is a freelance writer and photographer from

National Conference on

Science & Geopolitics of

Arctic & Antarctic - III

September 29-30, 2015

Venue: India International Centre, New Delhi

SaGAA III, 2015

Geopolitics of the Polar Region
Climate Change in the Polar Region and the
Geopolitics of it
Resources Potential, marine protected areas
and geopolitics
Tourism Industry and the Poles
Scholars and Students
Those desirous of participating please register
To download online form, please visit

Organised by,
LIGHTS, Research Foundation
A 216-217, Somdatt Chambers-1,
Bhikaji Cama Place,
New Delhi-110066,
+91 11 41551436, 41551848
Entry by invitation only. Please write to for any query.

Supported by

Ministry of Earth Sciences

Department of Science and Technology
Government of India

RNI No. deleNg/2001/5002