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National Disaster: Reconstruction and Rehabilitation By P. S. Rana, CMD, HUDCO

Human settlements are frequently affected by natural disasters – earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, cyclones, landslides – which take a heavy toll on human lives, destroy buildings and infrastructure and have far reaching economic and social consequences for communities. The vulnerability of human settlements to natural disasters is continuously rising due to the concentration of population and economic activities in large urban agglomerations and the precarious situation of low-income settlements in both urban and rural areas. Enormous efforts are being made throughout the world to overcome the problems of natural hazards. Even the well-developed countries like USA and Japan have suffered from severe disasters in the recent past. But with an integrated approach to Regional Development Planning with community participation and integrated approach to disaster mitigation, these countries have been able to reduce the impact of unexpected disasters to a great extent, over a period of time. In addition, these countries are continuously engaged in collecting the data / information, undertaking research on development of disaster prevention and mitigation techniques and creation of an awareness among the masses through series of actions, training and education. Most of the developed countries are still continuously engaged in strengthening their disaster management capabilities in the form of short term and long-term strategies.

HUDCO’s Initiatives
Apart from its routine operations of techno financing, housing & basic infrastructure, HUDCO has been spontaneously responding to the needs in disaster mitigation and rehabilitation. HUDCO was involved in the rehabilitation of the Bhopal Gas Victims in 1984. In more recent times, it has played a major role in aiding victims of the Andhra Cyclone, Orissa Super Cyclone, Earthquakes in Gujarat, Uttaranchal, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, and also Tsunami Victims. In each case HUDCO has created innovative and speedy solutions to the problems of re-housing and rehabilitation of affected people.
The projects briefed in the following sections are standing examples of HUDCO’s technical assistance on spatial planning and design in disaster prone areas, in keeping with traditional and socio-cultural styles, and institutional mechanism for imparting training and building capacities at all levels from grass route to mixed professionals for disaster prevention and preparedness in built environment.

HUDCO’s Objectives and Strategy
The main objective of the initiative has been to rehabilitate maximum people safely and giving due consideration to their social/economic status within available means and to incorporate technological features in buildings, which would help minimise the extent of damage in the event of another calamity. The strategy adopted includes:
Survey of area to find the extent of damage and to suggest remedial measures: Working in disaster-affected areas is a big challenge as people’s expectations are very high and recourses are limited. To avoid the chaos the areas were/are first surveyed to find the extent of damage and to decide on the number of houses that require retrofitting and those that need to be redone.
Training programmes: The affected community is normally in a state of shock and has no idea as to how the damaged houses would be reconstructed/repaired. HUDCO therefore realised the need for appropriate training to create awareness amongst these people. The training through it’s building centre (Technology transfer cum training centre jointly promoted by HUDCO and GOI. Presently there is a national network with over 600 members) fully aimed at developing a pool of skilled manpower so that the immediate needs of the communities are met locally. Mock-Ups were/are also done to demonstrate retrofitting technologies. The skills of the local artisans in disaster resistant technologies are consequently upgraded and the participation of masons, supervisors from local communities mobilised.
Construction of Model units: The collapse of buildings and loss of life normally makes the occupants lose faith in the safety of traditional construction practices. It becomes difficult to convince people of the effectiveness of technological innovations. It was realised that this resistance of the community can only be tackled by demonstrating the benefits. As a result prototype models of houses were constructed and were tested to build confidence among the public. With the help of building centres type designs are developed to demonstrate alternative building materials and technologies, which are disaster resistant.
Planning and implementation through community participation: The planning and design of villages and houses is undertaken after dialogue with the beneficiaries. This enables retaining the main characteristics of their social life. However, initially it was found difficult to convince them for house with same plinth areas but with persistent dialogue the villagers were convinced about the approach. The projects have been implemented by building centres with the cooperation of the beneficiaries themselves. The beneficiaries were provided building material besides the technology to do their houses. This helped ensure that the funds were not diverted to other use, as normally the case is when beneficiaries were given cash. This also gave them an opportunity for employment and monitoring the progress/quality of work.

After the experience in these areas, HUDCO has streamlined its operation for disaster mitigation and set certain guidelines like:
Survey the area to find extent of damage and suggest remedial measures.
Discussion with District Administration, beneficiaries, CBOS, NGOS and local bodies and evolving a common strategy for rehabilitation.
Pooling of resources and formulation of project.
Opening of building centres and organising training.
Award of the work to the building centres with beneficiaries’ active involvement.
Technical supervision by HUDCO and District Administration.
Handling the work with the help of beneficiaries and District Administration.
Documentation of whole process.

Natural Disasters where HUDCO intervened by way of financing natural calamity schemes and taking up reconstruction/rehabilitation programmes are as follows:
Latur Earthquake (September, 1993), Andhra Cyclone (November, 1996), Jabalpur Earthquake (May, 1997), Chamoli Earthquake (March, 1999), Orissa Super Cyclone (October, 1999), Gujarat Earthquake (January, 2001), Tsunami (December, 2004).

Here we just elaborate the last disaster i.e. “Tsunami – Indian Ocean Earthquake – 2004” in the following.

The 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake was an undersea earthquake that occurred at 00.58 UTC (7.58.53 IST) on 26, December 2004. The earthquake generated a Tsunami that was among the deadliest disasters in modern history.

Tsunami is a water wave caused due to tectonic activities under water and travels across oceans with very high speed and can inflict great damage to life and property at the shores. Tsunami is a word of Japanese language meaning “harbour wave”, which is used to describe the large waves produced by an abrupt shifting of the sea floor, which results in vertical displacement of the overlying water. When these waves reach the land by travelling, large distances across the ocean, they cause devastation on the coasts.

At magnitude of 9.0 on Richter Scale, it was the largest earthquake since the 9.2 magnitude Good Friday Earthquake of Alaska in 1964 and tied for fourth largest since 1900.

Earthquake and associated Tsunami
The earthquake originated in the Indian Ocean just north of Simeulue Island, off the western coast of northern Sumatra, Indonesia and triggered the most devastating Tsunami of the recorded history causing a death toll of more than 1,90,000. The resulting Tsunami devastated the shores of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, South India, Thailand and other countries with waves upto 30m (100 feet). It caused serious damage and deaths as far as the east coast of Africa, with the farthest recorded death due to the Tsunami occurring at Port Elizabeth in South Africa, 8000 km (5000 miles) away from the epicenter. The true final toll may never be known due to bodies having been swept out to sea but as of January 13, 2005 (18 days after the event) the total number of deaths (approximate) as reported from various countries was 1,59,484. The break up is as follows:
: 113,306 (3,598 missing)
Sri Lanka : 29,825 (5,806 missing)
India : 10,672 (5,711 missing – 5,625 on the Andaman & Nicobar Islands)
Thailand : 5,309 (3,396 missing)
Somalia : 150
Myanmar : 59
Maldives : 82 (26 missing)
Malaysia : 68 (6 missing)
Tanzania : 10
Bangladesh : 2
Kenya : 1

Tsunami Warning System and Preparedness
Modern technology is capable of offering advance warning of such events in many areas, giving people the chance to escape to higher ground. The best way to avoid such disastrous results is by better preparation for any such events in advance. In case of the recent Sumatra earthquake and subsequent Tsunami, there was a lag of about 3 hours between the earthquake and the Tsunami reaching the coasts of Indian main land.

Recently, there have been efforts to detect the Tsunamis as they travel through the ocean. As Tsunamis may take a few hours to reach the coasts, if they are detected near the source, this time lag can be used to warn people of a Tsunami heading towards them.

The extent of un-preparedness in India to handle Tsunami can be understood from the fact that no policy/guidelines existed. In Indian scenario, the solution is not only developing a warning system but also to launch a mass awareness campaign.

Indian Scenario
Andaman & Nicobar Islands and large part of the east coast and a small part of the west coast of the Indian mainland suffered extensive damage due to the Tsunami. Tsunamis have not been regular phenomena at India coasts though many other countries have been plagued by more frequent Tsunamis for centuries. The first reported Tsunami that hit the Indian coasts dates back to April 2, 1762. An earthquake at Bangladesh-Myanmar border triggered a Tsunami in the Bay of Bengal and water in Hoogly in Kolkata rose by 2m while rise in water at Dhaka is reported to have capsized hundreds of boats and drowned many people. On December 31, 1881, an earthquake of magnitude 7.9 at Car Nicobar region generated Tsunamis with maximum crest height of 0.8 m, which was recorded around the Bay of Bengal. The Krakatoa volcano eruption of 1883 had caused a Tsunami that was also felt at Indian coasts. In twentieth century, Indian coasts witnessed two major Tsunamis. On June 26, 1941, an 8.1 magnitude earthquake at Andaman Islands generated a Tsunami of about 1m in height. The cellular jail in Port Blair was also damaged and the earthquake was felt even in Chennai and Colombo. Even the land of certain islands was reported to have sunk by about 60 cm. On November 28, 1945, Makran coast of Pakistan had an earthquake of magnitude 8.0. This earthquake was accompanied by generation of Tsunamis and mud volcanoes. The Tsunamis were as high as 12m at some of the Makran ports causing tremendous damage. The height of Tsunamis reached 11 m at Kutch coasts and about 2 m at Mumbai, about 15 persons were reported dead at Mumbai due to the Tsunami. About 4000 people died due to the earthquake and Tsunami. Apart from the development of a unified Tsunami Warning System, the need of the hour is to train people to understand the hazard of Tsunami and the ways to minimise its devastating effects.

HUDCO’s Post Tsunami rehabilitation efforts
HUDCO along with CPWD (Central Public Woks Department) and NBCC (National Building Construction Corporation) teams visited Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry for preliminary damage assessment.
HUDCO also participated along with the national team, which visited A & N Island for presentation of proposal to the local Government.
HUDCO also participated and submitted proposal at the national level meetings held by Hon’ble Agriculture Minister, National Disaster Management Authority (IIPA), Ministry of Urban Employment and Poverty Alleviation and Ministry of Urban Development.
MOUD proposed two execution agencies as CPWD and NBCC for A & N Island and Pondicherry. HUDCO has been asked to give the design and planning inputs for permanent rehabilitation.

Details of impact of the Tsunamis of December 26, 2004:

Details Andhra Pradesh Kerala Tamil Nadu Pondicherry Andaman & Nicobar Total
Costal Length affected in km. 985 250 1,000 25 -
Penetration of water into mainland in km. 0.5-2.0
1.0-2.0 1.0-1.5

Average height of tidal waves 5 m 3-5 m 7-10 m 10 m

No. of Villages affected    301 187 376 33

Population affected in lakhs          
24.70 8.90 0.43 0.35
Dwelling units damaged 1,557 17,381 125,194 10,061 14,000 168193

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