Monday, January 16, 2017

EDITORIAL: Stick to code

Due to lack of adequate open spaces in the city areas many died from crumbling buildings in the recent earthquakes

Earthquakes are nothing new to this Himalayan country considered to be in a high seismic zone.  One should therefore take into account that earthquakes are natural disasters but they do not cause as much damage as man-made structures. This was glaring after the mega earthquake in 2015 and its aftermath which took a heavy toll of human lives and also destroyed property worth billions. Most of the casualties occurred in buildings that were not built to stand earthquakes of this magnitude. We marked the 19th Earthquake Safety Day Sunday hoping to raise awareness among the people about the hazards posed by natural disasters like earthquakes and to be prepared to cope with them and what we can do to avoid the damage caused by earthquakes.

For one, it is seen that most of the houses that are built are not up to the code to withstand strong shocks as they are not resilient enough. There is every need to use quality materials when building both residential and commercial houses in order to minimize the damage. It follows that building small houses which are strong could go a long way in preventing damage. As far as possible it is advisable to build houses by using light materials and make the utmost use of the advanced technology available.  The construction of such buildings should strictly abide by the building code. However, we find many houses being built that do the follow the building norms inviting disaster. After all the codes are designed for the safety of the occupants as such buildings would be able to withstand major earthquakes. All buildings should be constructed under the supervision of qualified engineers. Instead of building houses on their own house builders are recommended to seek the advice of experts. Those houses that have been built without meeting the standards set should be immediately demolished for the safety of the occupants of such buildings.

It is also found that the cities are found wanting in open spaces. People could gather in safety in these spaces. Due to their dearth many died from crumbling buildings in the recent earthquakes. According to the present building requirements, the house builders should leave at least 30 per cent of land and build houses in the rest of the available land preferably in the back of their compound. This would be a wise move as the people would be safe as they can seek shelter in the open spaces that would be then available. According to experts worldwide, other major earthquakes could occur at any time in this Himalayan region.  The earthquakes also showed how unprepared we were to deal with these eventualities. The rehabilitation of the earthquake victims is taking an awfully long time. The reconstruction activities are moving very slowly and many of the earthquake victims still have not received the assistance promised to them by the government. Many earthquake victims still lack proper shelter even now. This is a result of lack of coordination among the various stakeholders involved who have failed miserably in providing adequate relief to the victims by enabling them to build safe houses.

Nuclear material

The Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development has urged all municipalities to abide by its directives on the management of nuclear material issued in 2015. The directives require all concerned to take permission from the Ministry of Population and Environment before dealing with radio-active material. Nuclear materials refer to all materials including nuclear, atomic explosives, machinery or equipment that emit radiation, radio-active waste and other technology related to it.

The government directives aim to safeguard  public life and to ensure that nuclear materials are used only for specific purposes. Mostly the nuclear materials or technology are used in the medical sector in Nepal. Disposal of nuclear materials or used technology or equipment is a challenging job. The concerned person or organization is liable to compensate any damage or loss caused to workers, employees, customers or the public while handling the nuclear materials or radio-active materials. The government, needs to raise public awareness about the danger of carelessly using nuclear materials. It is equally important to make the public aware about the areas where nuclear or radio-active materials are used commonly. The technicians who handle them should be cautious while handling such materials.

A version of this article appears in print on January 17, 2017 of The Himalayan Times.

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