Earthquake safety in India: achievements, challenges and opportunities
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- Cite this article as:
- Jain, S.K. Bull Earthquake Eng (2016) 14: 1337. doi:10.1007/s10518-016-9870-2
The Indian subcontinent has suffered some of the greatest earthquakes in the world. The earthquakes of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries triggered a number of early advances in science and engineering related to earthquakes that are discussed here. These include the development of early codes and earthquake-resistant housing after the 1935 Quetta earthquake in Baluchistan, and strengthening techniques implemented after the 1941 Andaman Islands earthquake, discovered by the author in remote islands of India. Activities in the late 1950s to institutionalize earthquake engineering in the country are also discussed. Despite these early developments towards seismic safety, moderate earthquakes in India continue to cause thousands of deaths, indicating the poor seismic resilience of the built environment. The Bhuj earthquake of 2001 highlighted a striking disregard for structural design principles and quality of construction. This earthquake was the first instance of an earthquake causing collapses of modern multi-storey buildings in India, and it triggered unprecedented awareness amongst professionals, academics and the general public. The earthquake led to the further development of the National Information Centre of Earthquake Engineering and the establishment of a comprehensive 4-year National Programme on Earthquake Engineering Education that was carried out by the seven Indian Institutes of Technology and the Indian Institute of Science. Earthquake engineering is a highly context-specific discipline and there are many engineering problems where appropriate solutions need to be found locally. Confined masonry construction is one such building typology that the author has been championing for the subcontinent. Development of the student hostels and staff and faculty housing on the new 400-acre campus of the Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar has provided an opportunity to adopt this construction typology on a large scale, and is addressed in the monograph. The vulnerability of the building stock in India is also evident from the occasional news reports of collapses of buildings under construction or during rains (without any earthquake shaking). Given India’s aspirations to be counted as one of the world’s prosperous countries, there is a great urgency to address the safety of our built environment. There is a need: to create a more professional environment for safe construction, including a system for code enforcement and building inspection; for competence-based licensing of civil and structural engineers; for training and education of all stakeholders in the construction chain; to build a research and development culture for seismic safety; to encourage champions of seismic safety; to effectively use windows of opportunity provided by damaging earthquakes; to focus on new construction as opposed to retrofitting existing buildings; and to frame the problem in the broader context of overall building safety rather than the specific context of earthquakes. Sustained long-term efforts are required to address this multi-faceted complex problem of great importance to the future development of India. While the context of this paper is India, many of the observations may be valid and useful for other earthquake-prone countries.
KeywordsIndiaEarthquake engineeringSeismic safetyCapacity-buildingHistorical developmentsConfined masonryCodesLicensing
It is my great honour to have been invited to be the 15th Mallet-Milne Lecturer, giving a lecture named after such pioneers in the field. I hope to build on the work of some previous Mallet-Milne lecturers, who have so eloquently discussed the problem of earthquake safety around the world. From my mentors, George Housner and Bruce Bolt, second and fifth Mallet-Milne lecturers respectively, who passionately tackled global engineering and science problems, I have learned much and am privileged to be following in their footsteps. Two more recent Mallet-Milne lecturers, Robin Spence and Roger Bilham, have persuasively argued that earthquake risk is “growing, not shrinking”, predominantly in the cities of the developing world. I hope to bring new insights to the problem they have articulated. In my lecture I will discuss the earthquake risk in one particular country, my own, India, where I have been involved in earthquake engineering for my entire career. While as a country we have made tremendous strides in some areas, the problem remains enormous, with much to do. I will discuss historical developments of earthquake risk reduction in India, the progress made in recent years, and the challenges that lie ahead to reduce earthquake risk. While the context of this lecture is India, many of the observations may be valid and useful for other earthquake-prone countries.
The Indian subcontinent has suffered some great earthquakes with magnitude exceeding 8.0. The earthquakes of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries triggered a number of developments in India towards science and engineering related to earthquakes, including the development of construction practices that are robust against earthquake shaking. The institutionalization of earthquake engineering in the country took place as early as the late 1950s with teaching and research in earthquake engineering starting at the University of Roorkee (now IIT Roorkee).
Despite these early developments towards seismic safety, moderate earthquakes in India continue to cause thousands of deaths, indicating poor seismic resilience of its built environment. The first seismic code was developed and implemented after the 1935 Quetta earthquake for reconstruction in Baluchistan (now in Pakistan) (see Jain and Nigam 2000), and the first national seismic code was developed in 1962 (IS 1893 1962). And yet, effective implementation of the building codes remains a major challenge.
The 2001 Bhuj earthquake was the first instance of an Indian earthquake causing collapses of modern multi-storey buildings, since the earlier earthquakes had occurred in rural or semi-urban settings. Approximately 14,000 deaths (Jain 2002) in this earthquake created unprecedented awareness amongst professionals, academics and the general public, and opened up a number of windows of opportunity for capacity-building for seismifc safety.
The National Information Centre of Earthquake Engineering (NICEE), set up at the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur in 1999 to meet the needs of the country in terms of “information” on earthquake engineering, was able to kickstart its activities in a very receptive environment after the 2001 earthquake. Currently, NICEE continues to undertake a number of capacity-building activities by publishing and disseminating information, and by increasing awareness among architecture and civil engineering students, academics and professionals through conferences and workshops.
During 2003–2007, a comprehensive National Programme on Earthquake Engineering Education (NPEEE) was implemented by the seven Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) with financial support from the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), Government of India. It enabled more than 1000 teachers of civil engineering and architecture to receive training in earthquake engineering through short courses, conferences, seminars and research programmes. The programme also supported development of curricula, resource materials and teaching aids, and the development of library and laboratory resources. As a result of NPEEE, a large number of civil engineering and architectural colleges now teach concepts of seismic engineering to their students.
Both NICEE and NPEEE were effective because of the groundwork that had already been put in place, and because the 2001 Bhuj earthquake provided the right environment to push forward with these two initiatives. India has made a lot of progress towards awareness and capacity-building in the last two decades, and this is particularly visible when one compares the situation with respect to other developing countries in general and with the neighbouring countries of the subcontinent in particular. However, if India were to be measured against its aspirations of counting amongst the world’s leading countries in terms of earthquake safety, our progress has been quite inadequate.
One area of major concern is the lack of a professional environment to ensure safe construction; here the term ‘safe construction’ is being used in a broad sense and not just in the narrow context of seismic safety. The country has neither a system for code enforcement, nor competence-based licensing of civil or structural engineers. Enforcement of codes is closely connected with quality of governance at the local city level, and much remains to be done towards this.
Earthquake engineering is a highly context-specific discipline. Practices and concerns of one country or one society may not be effective elsewhere. Interventions for seismic safety must account for local construction practices and building materials, capacity and nature of the local construction industry, and the local geological and seismological setting. Further, there are many engineering problems that may be specific to a region and appropriate solutions must be found for the same locally. For instance, new seismically resilient building typologies may need to be evolved that meet the local needs in terms of local building materials, practices and weather conditions. Confined masonry construction is one such building typology that my colleagues and I have been championing for the subcontinent. Development of a new 400-acre campus for the Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar has provided an opportunity to adopt this construction typology on a large scale.
It is not possible in one lecture to provide comprehensive coverage of all that has happened and is happening in India in terms of earthquake safety. There are many people in the country, in academia, practice, government and the NGO sector, who are all doing good work. Hopefully I touch upon some of these activities in my remarks, but the focus of my lecture is on work with which I have been involved. And of course much of my work has been conducted with a number of my colleagues who are passionately engaged in reducing seismic risk. We all recognize this is a daunting challenge with an enormous urgency, considering the huge populations that are at risk.
2 Seismic hazard and risk
2.1 The geotectonic setting of the Indian subcontinent1
There has been a regular occurrence of great earthquakes in the Himalayas and currently most of the seismic activity is located south of the Main Central Thrust (MCT). The Himalayan Frontal Thrust is believed to be the likely location of future great earthquakes. Because of its proximity to the densely populated Indo-Gangetic Plains, this poses a very serious seismic risk for the future and has been a major cause of concern in the scientific and emergency management communities. Peninsular India, even though far less active seismically, has also seen some very damaging earthquakes, for instance, the Koyna (1967), Latur (1993) and Bhuj (2001) earthquakes. It is clear that most parts of India are prone to earthquakes of varying magnitudes and with varying probabilities of occurrence.
In the aftermath of these events, the need for a comprehensive database compiling all available data on geological, geophysical and seismological aspects of the entire country was strongly felt, to facilitate seismic hazard assessment, and in 2000, the Seismotectonic Atlas of India and its Environs, was published by the Geological Survey of India (GSI 2000). The Atlas contains 42 maps that cover India and its neighbouring countries without delineating political national boundaries; each map sheet also provides some explanatory notes and illustrative diagrams.
2.2 Ancient and medieval earthquakes
Interest in, and scientific engagement with, earthquakes in India can be traced back three millennia, to ancient Indian texts that contain both quantitative and qualitative understanding on earthquake occurrences, effects and even earthquake magnitude and intensities. These texts also include a number of “theories” on the causes of earthquakes, some of which are rooted in mythological beliefs—such as the notion that earthquakes are caused by the collective “sigh of elephants that are supporting the Earth”—while others have geographical, geological and climatic underpinnings, for example, “earthquakes were caused by the interaction of two strong winds which eventually impacted the oceans and shook the earth” (Iyengar 1999). These ancient texts also classified earthquakes into four categories, according to their direction, time of occurrence and effects: Agni (fire); Vayu (wind); Varuna (water); and Indra (rain). And, these ancient texts divided the subcontinent into distinct zones according to the types and effects of earthquakes that occurred there (Iyengar 1999).
Interpretations of archival records of both Persian and Sanskrit origin have referred to several earthquakes in Kashmir and Assam and some in other parts of the country. The first reference to an earthquake in Kashmir is from the Mahabharata (Iyengar et al. 1999); the Mahabharata may have been composed about 2000 years ago (e.g., Singh 2009a). A number of historic earthquakes have been reported from Assam, primarily in the buranjis or official records maintained by court officers. These include earthquakes with notable effects, including: the 1556 Gajala earthquake with evidence of what is now known as liquefaction (sand boils, water spouts); the 1697 Sadiya earthquake with an estimated Modified Mercalli Intensity (MMI) of X; and the 1714 earthquake at at Tingkhang and Charaideo Hill with extensive building damage. In addition, according to Iyengar et al. (1999), five different Persian sources describe a destructive earthquake at Agra in 1505 with widespread building collapses, many casualties, and the appearance of ground fissures, as well as an earthquake in Mandaran in West Bengal in 1669, where the appearance of very deep ground fissures suggest an MMI of IX. They also note the Gujarat earthquake of 1705 at Goga with reports of widespread fissures, and the Sirajgunj (in present day Bangladesh) earthquake of 1787 that caused changes in the course of rivers.
Trench investigations in recent times suggest repeated fault activity in the subcontinent and within the Himalayan plate boundary (Wesnousky et al. 1999). Seismo-archaeological evidence also exists in the region corresponding to the Indus Valley Civilization. Excavations at different locations in Kalibangan, an Early and Mature Harappan site, show clear signs of fault rupture and earth movements, implying violent shaking (Kovach et al. 2010). In fact, some archaeologists attribute the end of Early Harappan occupation of Kalibangan to an earthquake. Dholavira, located in the Rann of Kutch in Gujarat, is another Harappan settlement with evidence of earthquake damage and repairs (Kovach et al. 2010). Dholavira is also in the vicinity of two major recent earthquakes, the 1819 M8.0 Kutch earthquake that caused the Allah Bund and the 2001 M7.7 Bhuj earthquake.
2.3 Some significant earthquakes
India’s history is full of significant earthquakes that have affected many aspects of Indian life, including population movement, important cultural and religious monuments, local economies as well as construction practices. More than 60 % of the country is in seismic zones with expected shaking of intensity VII and above. The entire Himalayan belt is considered prone to great earthquakes exceeding magnitude 8—in a span of about 50 years four such earthquakes occurred: 1897 Assam (M8.7); 1905 Kangra (M8.0); 1934 Bihar–Nepal (M8.3); and 1950 Assam–Tibet (M8.6). Very severe earthquakes in the Himalayan region are expected that could affect millions in the country, e.g., Bilham et al. (2001).
A brief overview of some significant earthquakes in the Indian subcontinent
Date (local time)
Magnitude and MM/MSK intensity
Near Debal (Sindh), Pakistan
180,000 reported dead (may be exaggerated), Indus river changed course, Debal town disappeared, affected area similar to that of 1819 and 2001 earthquakes in Kutch
(~5 AM local time)
Nepal Tibet Border
Affected a very large region. Caused destruction in western Nepal and Tibet. Monasteries and temples destroyed, tens of thousands of lives lost. Agra (500 km away) was badly affected. Earthquake felt in Delhi
Numerous houses destroyed in a number of towns, killing many people. Fort badly damaged. Babur, staying at that time outside Kabul, took about a month to repair the Fort
Intensity VII (MSK) in a large area of Kashmir. Massive landslides and rockfalls. Numerous persons killed
Damage to the Fort and to many buildings. Many lives were lost. Cracks developed in ground
Very large earthquake, consisted of four shocks, buildings collapsed, Temples in Daba district damaged beyond repair
Exact location under debate; some sources mention location near Mathura. Severe damage in the district of Tehri Garhwal, at Gangotri and Badrinath. 200–300 persons killed in Barahat on Bhagirathi river. Complete destruction between Joshimath and Karnaprayag, Liquefaction in Mathura. Qutab minar in Delhi damaged. Dislodged upper turrets of several minarets in Lucknow including that of Imambarah
Runn of Kutch
Killed more than 1500 persons; Created an embankment named “Allah Bund” about 100 km long, about 7 to 9 m high; South of Allah Bund, a lake formed when water from ocean rushed into the depression. Felt over radius of 1600 km
414 persons dead in Nepal, number of deaths in India not known. Affected areas same as that of the 1934 and 1988 Bihar–Nepal earthquakes
1st earthquake in India where Geological Survey of India carried out an investigation under guidance of their first superintendent, Thomas Oldham
Car Nicobar region
Generated tsunamis with a maximum crest height of 0.8 m recorded by eight tide gauges around the Bay of Bengal. Felt over much of India and parts of Burma
About 1500 persons died. Was felt over 4.5 million sq km area, Large scale surface distortion and liquefaction. Stones projected through the air, indicating vertical ground acceleration exceeding 1.0 g
Shock was felt throughout south India. Coimbatore and Coonoor worst affected
~19,000 persons died. About 10 % population of Kangra and Palanpur tehsils killed. Liquefaction in Bijnor, Hardwar and Roorkee. Considerable damage in Lahore. High intensity around Dehradun and Mussorie (VIII)
About 120 persons died. Damage to railway establishment led the railway authorities to take up construction of earthquake-resistant quarters for officials
Death toll 7253 in India and 3400 in Nepal; large scale liquefaction in an area of 12,200 sq. km where houses slumped into the ground
Caused ~35,000 deaths, largest in any earthquake in the sub-continent in the last two centuries. Population of Quetta was around 60,000 of which about 26,000 persons killed. Administration of the situation became difficult since most civil and police officials were killed in the earthquake. Led to development of seismic codes and systematic reconstruction work by civil, military and railways following earthquake-resistant features
Generated a tsunami ~1.0 m high on the east coast, causing many deaths. Widespread damage to Middle and South Andaman Islands. The Cellular Jail was badly damaged. Earthquake felt in Madras, and in Colombo (Sri Lanka)
Makran Coast, Pakistan
Earthquake accompanied by generation of a tsunami and mud volcanoes. Tsunami reached height of 12 m in some Mekran ports, causing tremendous damage. Tsunami height at Kutch coast 11, and 2 m at Mumbai. About 4000 persons died by earthquake and tsunami. In Mumbai 15 persons were washed away by tsunami
About 1500 persons in India and 2400 in China killed. Caused huge landslides which blocked rivers, and later caused floods as the blockades got cleared. A lot of aftershock activity, with at least one of M7.0
Anjar (in Kutch)
About 115 persons killed; part of Anjar on rocky sites suffered much less damage than the other part
About 180 persons killed. Caused significant damage to concrete gravity dam. Occurred in area considered non-seismic at the time. An example of reservoir induced earthquake
About 30 persons killed
Damage pattern same as in 1934 Bihar–Nepal earthquake. About 1000 persons killed
768 persons killed. 56 m span Gawana bridge 6 km from Uttarkashi en-route to Gangotri collapsed, causing the pilgrims at Gangotri to be stranded for some time
Most deadly earthquake in India since independence with 7928 persons killed. An intra-plate earthquake in a region considered aseismic and placed in lowest seismic zone in the contemporary zone map
38 persons killed, about 1000 injured. Several concrete frame buildings with open ground storey suffered structural damage. Numerous masonry buildings suffered damage of staircase mumties
As a result of 1991 Uttarkashi earthquake, the area had improved constructions from seismic view point. Rather low casualties: about 63 persons died. Some damage to two buildings in Delhi located >200 km away
13,805 lives lost. Numerous modern multistory buildings collapsed: including about 130 buildings in Ahmedabad and one in Surat. Showed clearly the vulnerability of modern Indian constructions and the need for seismic code compliance. A number of medium and small earth dams severely damaged
North Andaman (Diglipur)
Many poorly constructed buildings damaged
VII (in Andaman Islands)
Caused most devastating tsunami in history, resulting in ~250,000 total deaths. In India about 10,000 people died and 5600 people were missing. Damage to structures primarily due to tsunami on mainland India, in Little Andaman and islands to south, damage due primarily to ground shaking
VIII at Uri
Poor performance of masonry buildings was the primary cause of deaths. Unique construction found in this region, dhajji diwari, showed good seismic performance
78 deaths in India. Large number of landslides, significant damage to buildings and infrastructure, including RC frame buildings. Sikkim most affected state of India. Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet (China) and Bangladesh sustained damage and losses to varying extent
2.4 Seismic risk
Table 1 illustrates how earthquakes in the Indian subcontinent continue to cause unacceptably large number of deaths. The main cause of fatalities in earthquakes in India is collapse of buildings. The number of deaths in an earthquake depends on shaking intensity, vulnerability of the building stock, time and season of the earthquake (whether people will be indoors or outdoors at the time of shaking), and to some extent on the efficacy of rescue and relief. Hence, in a theme that will be repeated throughout this monograph, the best protection against earthquake disasters is safer construction.
To illustrate the risk associated with Indian construction, two recent studies on rates of casualties in two earthquakes (Latur 1993; Bhuj 2001) are briefly summarized, as well as a recent study on the vulnerability of modern reinforced concrete buildings in Ahmedabad at the time of the 2001 Bhuj earthquake.
2.4.1 Casualties in two Indian earthquakes
2.4.2 Ahmedabad buildings and their seismic vulnerability
During the 2001 Bhuj earthquake, Ahmedabad city, located about 230 km from the epicentre, experienced shaking intensity of VII on the MSK scale. The city sustained significant damage to multi-storey reinforced concrete frame buildings that had been built in the previous decade. About 130 such buildings collapsed in Ahmedabad, killing 752 persons. An extensive damage survey was carried out on multi-storey building stock in the city by the Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology (CEPT) (now known as CEPT University). The buildings were classified into different damage categories, ranging from G0 (no damage) to G5 (collapse). Survey results for 2856 such buildings were available and analysed (Singh 2009b) to study vulnerability of RC frame buildings as they existed in Ahmedabad at that time. To benchmark these buildings, a comparison was made with the recommendations of the Applied Technology Council publication, ATC-13, (1985) for RC frame buildings.
The study (Singh 2009b) clearly illustrates the high vulnerability of RC frame buildings that were built in Ahmedabad prior to the 2001 earthquake; this was also obvious from the unacceptably high number of collapses and deaths. The quality of construction in Ahmedabad has since improved somewhat after the earthquake but is still not comparable to that in the developed countries.
2.5 Some observations
Clearly, a large part of India is prone to strong earthquake-induced shaking, and with highly vulnerable constructions, there is huge risk of death and destruction. Areas in seismic zones IV and V of the Indian zone map encompass some of the most populated regions of India, including Delhi, the world’s second most populous city. In addition to being so highly populated, Delhi is projected to grow from 25 million to 36 million by 2030, thus even further increasing its vulnerability (United Nations 2014).
Some of the construction typologies prevalent in India are particularly vulnerable to earthquake shaking. In 1994, the Government of India constituted an Expert Group to study the impact of natural hazards on housing and infrastructure in the country and to identify areas vulnerable to the damaging effects of hazards such as earthquakes, cyclones, floods, etc., prepare a vulnerability atlas delineating the vulnerable areas along with the risk levels of the housing stock in those areas and formulate a strategy for setting up the techno-legal regime for the enforcement of disaster resistant construction practices in settlements in hazard prone areas. Based on the Expert Group report, the Building Materials & Technology Promotion Council (BMTPC) published the Vulnerability Atlas of India in 1997. The Atlas considered housing typologies based on the 1991 Census data on housing. The data did not include any physical or structural characteristics of the houses based on building elements such as walls, roofs and floors, an omission that was addressed in the 2001 Census.
The 2011 Census of India indicates that there are over 330 million housing units in the country (GoI 2011a). Two-thirds of these are rural houses and almost 30 % are in earthquake zones IV and V (BMTPC 2006). Eighty-five percent of these houses are made with mud and un-burnt brick, burnt brick or stone walls, all of which can be quite vulnerable if not constructed and maintained properly (BMTPC 2006). Even with a huge percentage of the housing stock in rural areas, India has a rapidly growing urban population. In 2001, about 286 million people were living in urban areas across India, the second largest urban population in the world. The Census of India (2011) shows the urban population had increased to 377 million, thereby registering a growth of around 32 %. As per recent estimates, nearly 590 million people will live in Indian cities by 2030 (Make India 2015). According to the Government of India Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation (GoI 2012), 18.78 million households are facing a housing shortage in urban India, while the housing shortage in rural areas is 40 million (GoI 2011b). In his Budget Speech (GOI 2015; The Hindu 2015), the Finance Minister announced Housing for All by 2022, and further, every house in India should have access to basic facilities of 24-h power supply, clean drinking water, a toilet, and be connected to a road. This shows that despite having a huge problem of unsafe buildings that currently exist, we will also be constructing a huge number of new buildings. Hence, there is a tremendous urgency to ensure that new constructions are equipped with not only the basic facilities but should also be safe.
3 Early developments in earthquake science and engineering
3.1 Earthquake science
Damaging earthquakes in India have been studied systematically for about two centuries. The Kutch earthquake of 1819 (M8.0) was well documented by Macmurdo in the 1824 issue of The Philosophical Magazine (Macmurdo 1824). The earthquake caused a 100 km long and 3 m high fault scarp that was named Allah Bund (embankment created by God). This earthquake provided the “earliest well documented instance of faulting during an earthquake” (Richter 1958). Another important discovery out of this earthquake was what is now commonly termed as “site effects”. It was clearly noted that buildings on rock sites performed much better than those on the alluvium. Lt Baird Smith studied several early earthquakes in India and wrote articles about them in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal (Baird-Smith 1843).
3.1.1 Assam earthquake
A more systematic study of earthquakes in India was started by Thomas Oldham, the first Superintendent of the Geological Survey of India (GSI). He carried out a study of the Cachar earthquake of 1869 and compiled the first catalogue of earthquakes in India; both these were completed later by his son R. D. Oldham who succeeded him as Superintendent of GSI. The study on the Cachar earthquake was published in the memoirs of the Geological Survey of India as well as Science (Davis 1883). The earthquake was felt over an area of 250,000 square miles, and a considerable amount of liquefaction was reported.
By the time of the 1897 Assam earthquake (M8.7), R. D. Oldham must have already had considerable experience and knowledge of earthquakes as a consequence of working on completing his father’s work. As a result, he was able to undertake a scientific and very comprehensive study of that earthquake, and the resulting 400 page publication Memoir of the Geological Survey of India in 1899 is considered the first comprehensive scientific study of an earthquake anywhere in the world, e.g., “one of the most valuable source books in seismology” (Richter 1958).
Mallet’s seismometers consisting of cylinders of various diameters were set up in 1882 in Shillong and Silchar. Each seismometer comprised a set of nine cylinders 12 inches (305 mm) in height and diameters ranging from 1 inch (25 mm) to 9 inch (229 mm). During the main shock of the 1897 Assam earthquake, the whole series of cylinders was overthrown north-eastwards. The minimum acceleration and velocity corresponding to overthrow of the largest cylinder has been estimated as 0.74 g and 0.61 m/s, respectively (Oldham 1899; Manchester Geographical Society 2013). At Silchar (about 200 km from Shillong), the cylinders of 1.0 inch (25 mm) and 1.5 inch (38 mm) were overthrown which corresponds to a minimum acceleration of 0.12 g (Oldham 1899).
Based on a careful recording and a study of the overthrow of stones in the earthquake, Oldham concluded that the vertical acceleration in the meizoseismal region must have exceeded that of gravity (1.0 g). Oldham studied seismographic recordings of the Assam earthquake and it revealed for the first time the existence of longitudinal (P), transverse (S) and surface (L) waves.
3.1.2 Bihar–Nepal earthquakes
Interestingly, the damage pattern in the 1934 earthquake was similar to what had earlier been recorded for the 1833 earthquake in the region that killed 414 persons in Nepal and an unknown number in India. The memoirs of the GSI (1939) on the 1934 earthquake quote Lt. Baird-Smith (1843) as saying “It is a remarkable fact, that Monghyr seems to suffer more from earthquake shocks, from whatever direction these may come, than any other place in its vicinity. This was observed during the shock from the lateral Himalayan tract, of the 26th August 1833, again during that of the 11th November 1842, and I would say from the information before me, that on the present occasion, the shocks were smarter at Monghyr than at any other spot.” The 1988 (M 6.6) earthquake in northern Bihar again showed the same pattern of high seismic shaking intensity in the epicentral area, Munger, and Kathmandu valley.
Large scale liquefaction was caused by the 1934 earthquake. Buildings slumped into the ground and tilted in a large area (~300 km length and width of 65 km) that was termed a “slump belt”. Massive subsidence of road and railway embankments took place, and lakes and other depressions became shallower.
Based on a study of fallen objects, an acceleration of 0.33 g was estimated at Munger and 0.20–0.30 g in areas of intensity IX; such estimates tend to be lower-bound estimates since an object would have likely fallen with a higher acceleration. The first seismograph in India was installed in 1898 at the Bombay Observatory (Jain and Nigam 2000). S. C. Roy, Director of the Meteorological Department in Burma, contributed a chapter on seismology in the GSI report of the 1934 Bihar–Nepal earthquake (GSI 1939). He interpreted the seismic waves and located the earthquake epicentre from their arrival times. Roy was also one of the first to count the frequency rate of aftershocks using records at a seismograph station. Because the number fell from 200 to 16 in a month he concluded that the crustal strain had been relieved completely (Jain 2008).
3.2 Earthquake engineering
At the same time that advances were being made in earthquake science after these significant earthquakes, there were also advances in engineering and construction practices. There were several indigenous construction typologies that showed excellent performance in strong earthquake shaking. These typologies were developed much before the formal emergence of earthquake engineering, and highlight the fact that a lot of earthquake safety can be achieved through the use of common sense, provided there is commitment to do so. Assam-type houses (prevalent in the northeastern states) and timber houses in the Andaman and Nicobar islands have consistently shown good seismic performance. Unfortunately, these building typologies have been abandoned in these highly vulnerable regions due to (a) fire hazard in timber buildings, (b) environmental concerns regarding use of timber, and (c) due to the mistaken belief that reinforced concrete or masonry buildings will be safer even when adequate quality control cannot be ensured (Jain 2006).
3.2.1 Dhajji Diwari and Taq
Dhajji Diwari and Taq type constructions are common in Kashmir and in Himachal Pradesh, areas that have experienced strong earthquakes in the past and that are placed in the highest seismic zone in the Indian code. The fact that Dhajji Diwari is a common sight in Srinagar (Kashmir) but can hardly be seen 120 km away at Muzaffarabad (in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir) indicates that this may have developed as a result of a damaging earthquake in Srinagar in the last couple of centuries.
3.2.2 Assam type house
The typical Assam Type house is a single or two storey structure with brick or stone masonry up to the plinth level and mud plastered ekra panels braced by either timber or bamboo horizontal, vertical and at times, diagonal, confining members. Ekra is a kind of reed that grows on the banks of the Brahmaputra river and is used in combination with mud to form flexible and lightweight wall panels that are able to accommodate deformation during earthquake shaking, but do not collapse like brittle brick masonry infill walls. Sloping roofs consist of metal sheets or a thick stack of ekra panels over a timber or steel truss. Gable end walls have additional bracing above the eaves level to protect the upper ends of the walls.
This type of building became prevalent in the entire north-eastern part of India, and over the years has shown excellent seismic performance. Unfortunately, as noted above, in recent decades these buildings are being phased out because of concerns over the fire hazard, to minimize the use of timber and because of increasing interest in RC frame construction.
3.2.3 Earthquake reconstruction in Baluchistan
In the 1930s, some fascinating developments took place in Quetta (Baluchistan; now in Pakistan) in earthquake-resistant construction, development of codes and implementation of the same. Considering that these developments took place in a relatively isolated place, at a time when communication systems were not developed, and led by persons who were themselves new to the problem of earthquakes is inspirational in the context of the contemporary situation for seismic safety in many parts of the world.
Seismic factors for different seismic zones suggested by Kumar (1933)
Class of building
Values of the seismic factor
Areas of violent earthquakes
Areas of strong earthquakes
Areas of weak earthquakes
Areas of rare earthquakes
The reconstruction programme involved three main agencies: the railways, the military, and the civil administration, and all three were quite diligent about earthquake resistance for the new constructions (Thomson 1940; GoI 1940; Robertson 1948). A seismic coefficient of 0.125 was adopted and comprehensive guidelines developed for earthquake-resistant features. A code was also proposed along with an excellent commentary (GoI 1940). These constructions performed extremely well in the 1941 earthquake (RF intensity VIII to IX) (Mair 1942).
The entire series of episodes in Quetta in the 1930’s was rather unique not just for India but perhaps anywhere in the world: (a) a damaging earthquake inspires an organization (railways) to build a few earthquake-resistant houses, and notwithstanding that the persons at the helm did not have any knowledge about earthquakes, they learn about earthquake safety, build those houses, document their learning, (b) within a few years, performance of these houses in a major earthquake demonstrates that it is possible to build safe houses and inspires the entire reconstruction programme to focus on safety, (c) reconstruction itself is carried out with a complete focus upon safety and a number of construction innovations result, and (d) finally, yet another earthquake within a few years shows that the reconstruction programme had successfully achieved safety. For the first time, seismic codes were developed and implemented in the subcontinent. In order to introduce reinforcement in the masonry walls, a new type of masonry bond (Quetta Bond) was developed. The concept of providing reinforced concrete bands at plinth, lintel, and roof levels in masonry buildings evolved.
In the Quetta area an excellent building code has recently been drawn up, and reconstruction has been rigidly enforced in terms of that code. Such enforcement is, perhaps, easier in such a military area, but at least Quetta provides an example of the practicability of a building code and of its usefulness. It is, perhaps, not too much to hope that the rest of Northern India will some day follow Quetta’s lead.
3.2.4 Seismic retrofitting in Andaman Islands in the 1940s
The retrofitting of the mosque was rather intriguing to the author. The local engineers in the A&N islands in the forties understood how best to safeguard a masonry building from earthquakes. He expected to see something more interesting after that, but where?
The arches too were provided with tie rods, so that in the case of shaking the tie rods would take the tension forces generated and save the arches from collapse (since masonry arches transfer the vertical loads through compression, and are not effective in carrying tension generated during ground shaking).
The above examples show that it was possible to carry out earthquake-resistant design and retrofitting before the formal evolution of earthquake engineering discipline and this should be a source of inspiration to our current generation of engineers and architects. We have much to learn from a careful study of historic practices.
4 Post independence developments
As discussed earlier, the first systematic developments in earthquake-resistant construction took place in Quetta in the thirties. However, this remained a one-time local effort driven by unique circumstances and coincidences. The more formal institutionalization of earthquake engineering in India happened in the late 1950’s and the 1960’s (Jain 2008). In that sense, India was amongst the few countries that started formal earthquake engineering efforts rather early.
With his various responsibilities in major engineering projects, Khosla could have been very concerned with the need to design and construct structures that can withstand earthquakes. As Chairman of the Central Board of Geophysics, in a preface to proceedings of a seminar on the Great Assam–Tibet earthquake of 1950 (M8.7), Khosla wrote: “The seismological work in India has not so far received adequate attention and when compared with Japan, USA and some other countries, it is lagging far behind……the science of geophysics, although a newcomer in the field, has vital bearing on many aspects of our development plans, engineering, industrial and agricultural” (Rao 1953).
Khosla came to Caltech and spent a couple of weeks. This was in the late 1950s. He was very interested in what we were doing. He was interested in earthquake work. He was also much interested in dynamics laboratory. I had set up a little laboratory for dynamic measurements of all kinds. He spent quite a little time looking over what we were doing. Finally he came in 1 day and said, “I’m very interested in what you’re doing. I’d like to do the same things in my school. So I’ve arranged with Dr. DuBridge [Caltech president Lee A. DuBridge] that you should take a leave of absence and come over to India for a while.” …. So the arrangement was that he would send over his best man to work with me for 6 months. We would plan the laboratory here, order all new equipment, and get everything packed up and ready to ship to Roorkee. And then I would come to Roorkee and spend six months or so. Then he would send two more of his best people to Caltech for a year.
Khosla had a very good rapport with the then Prime Minister Nehru who visited Bhakra Dam a number of times, and this was of great value to developing earthquake engineering at Roorkee. For instance, Hudson in his oral history mentions: “And, sure enough, they got him [Nehru] to come and inspect our school. We showed him the lab and everything we were doing [in earthquake engineering at Roorkee]. He was very interested. So, from then on, we got the full backing from the government of India. Without that, of course, we could have done nothing. That was, again, just kind of fortuitous—when personal connections were involved from way back” (Hudson, interviewed by S. Cohen 1997).
Hudson and Housner also helped Jai Krishna to organize the first ever earthquake engineering conference in India, the first “Symposium on Earthquake Engineering” in 1959. The School for Research and Training in Earthquake Engineering (SRTEE) was established at Roorkee in 1960, which later became the Department of Earthquake Engineering. Under Jai Krishna’s leadership, the first national seismic code (IS 1893) was published by Indian Standards Institute (now, Bureau of Indian Standards) in 1962. He also formed the Indian Society of Earthquake Technology in 1962.
As per the original plan of Khosla’s, two young faculty members of Roorkee, A. R. Chandrasekaran and L. S. Srivastava were sent to Caltech to learn earthquake engineering for 1 year each, after the visit of Hudson and Housner. Both contributed to earthquake engineering in India for many years upon their return. The entire plan was a very fine example of capacity-building in a new disciplinary area for a developing country and could form an excellent model even for twenty-first century India.
Clearly, great work was done in the late fifties and the early sixties on institutional developments towards earthquake engineering. The following quote from Hudson in his oral history describes how far advanced Roorkee was in the mid-sixties: “… One of the new buildings was a big earthquake laboratory—Earthquake Engineering Laboratory. They had much better facilities there than we ever had here. This was all due to the man that they sent over to work with me, Dr. Jai Krishna, who turned out to be extremely able. He became vice chancellor of the university, and then president of the International Association for Earthquake Engineering ….”(Hudson, interviewed by S. Cohen 1997).
The 1967 Koyna earthquake (M6.7) occurred in an area considered non-seismic at that time. It killed about 200 persons and caused structural damage to Koyna Dam. The earthquake provided much needed articulation for incorporation of earthquake engineering design in major projects in India and provided a tremendous opportunity to the Earthquake School at Roorkee to contribute to numerous projects such as nuclear power plants, dams, and bridges. In his Caltech oral history, Housner states: “the fellows—Krishna and Chandrasekaran and Srivastava—who were here were able people, so they’ve got a very vigorous group there that is recommending how to design their dams and all that sort of thing. It’s been a very fruitful thing for India; before that, they just didn’t do anything”(Housner, interviewed by Prud’homme 1984).
On the advice of Jai Krishna, the Department of Science and Technology of the Government of India established the “Himalayan Seismicity” programme to support numerous research projects on seismology, including strong motion instrumentation in some high seismic areas. A large shake table was built at Roorkee in the eighties.
Unfortunately, impetus behind research support for “engineering for earthquakes” has not been commensurate. In the absence of damaging earthquakes from 1967 to 1988, research into engineering for earthquakes tended to stagnate. Besides Roorkee, other academic institutions remained aloof from earthquake engineering. There were no serious efforts to bring professional engineers within the ambit of earthquake safety, and the professionals tended to view earthquake safety as something for the specialists to address (Jain 2008).
5 Code development
5.1 Seismic zone map
As mentioned earlier in Sect. 3, the first ever seismic zone map for India was published by Kumar (1933). The Geological Survey of India (GSI) published a seismic zone map in 1935 as mentioned by West (1937). Seismic zone maps were also published in a number of articles, e.g., Krishna (1959) and Mithal and Srivastava (1959). However, these remained somewhat academic in nature and were never implemented. In 1958, Indian Roads Congress (IRC) published code provisions for seismic design of bridges, in which it provided a seismic zone map and seismic coefficients.
As can be seen above, the modifications to the seismic zone map in 1970 and again in 2002 have been somewhat ad-hoc, caused by the occurrence of damaging earthquakes in areas considered of very low seismicity. There has been much discussion about the need for a probabilistic seismic zone map for the country and some efforts have been made toward this. The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has undertaken development of such a zone map and under the leadership of Prof R. N. Iyengar, contour maps of peak ground acceleration on A-type rock (V30 > 1.5 km/s) level for return periods of 500, 2500, 5000 and 10,000 years were prepared in 2011. In 2012, another set of seismic maps (for return periods of 500 and 2500 years) were prepared by a Task Force headed by Dr. B. K. Rastogi set up by the CED39 Committee of the Bureau of Indian Standards. However, not enough discussion has taken place on incorporating any of the probabilistic maps in the seismic codes.
5.2 Early developments of codes
The Indian Concrete Journal provided very good coverage of the 1934 Bihar–Nepal earthquake damage in a special issue (ICJ 1934) with excellent photographs and captions of the damages.
The Concrete Association of India (CAI) published a monograph on earthquake-resistant design in 1954, which was subsequently revised in 1958 and 1965 (CAI 1965).
The Indian Roads Congress (IRC) in Paper No. 112 in 1946 provided for seismic design of bridges situated in regions that are subject to earthquakes (IRC 1946).
1958 and 1966 versions of the bridge code of the Indian Roads Congress (IRC 1966) provided a seismic zone map for India and specific seismic coefficients for different zones.
While the first formal seismic code in India was published in 1962, the code was not made mandatory for several decades thereafter. Revisions of this code became rather infrequent with the passage of time. Over the years, a number of additional seismic codes have been developed in the country.
After the 2001 Bhuj earthquake, it became clear that Indian seismic codes (and codes for protection against other disasters such as fire and wind) required a significant amount of work. The Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority (GSDMA) sponsored a large project at IIT Kanpur to work on building codes on earthquakes, wind and fire. The scope of work included review of codes, suggestions for modifications in the existing codes, development of several new codes, and development of commentaries and explanatory handbooks. A very significant amount of work was done under this project by a large team of experts from across the country. Under an arrangement with GSDMA, all these documents were placed on the web site of NICEE for wide dissemination (http://nicee.org/IITK-GSDMA_Codes.php). Several of these documents have become the basis of subsequent code revisions.
5.3 Seismic codes from bureau of Indian standards
Bureau of Indian standards codes on earthquake engineering
IS 1893: Part 1
Criteria for Earthquake-resistant Design of Structures—Part 1: General Provisions and Buildings
IS 1893: Part 2
Criteria for Earthquake-resistant Design of Structures—Part 2: Liquid Retaining Tanks
IS 1893: Part 3
Criteria for Earthquake-resistant Design of Structures—Part 3: Bridges and Retaining Walls
IS 1893: Part 4
Criteria for Earthquake-resistant Design of Structures—Part 4: Industrial structures including Stack-like Structures
Earthquake-resistant design and construction of buildings—Code of practice
Recommendations for seismic instrumentation for river valley projects
Improving earthquake resistance of earthen buildings—Guidelines
Improving earthquake resistance of low strength masonry buildings—Guidelines
Ductile detailing of reinforced concrete structures subjected to seismic forces—Code of practice
Seismic Evaluation, Repair and Strengthening of Masonry Buildings—Guidelines
Seismic Evaluation and Strengthening of Existing Reinforced Concrete Buildings—Guidelines
IS I893 has traditionally been the main seismic code in India, providing the seismic zone map and seismic design force for different structures, such as buildings, water tanks, stacks, bridges, dams and embankments, and retaining walls. The code, first published in 1962, was revised in 1966, 1970, 1975, and 1984.
The work on revisions to IS 1893–1984 was taken up in 1991 when it was decided to split IS 1893 into several parts with the hope that it would enable more frequent and timely revisions of the code (which unfortunately did not lead to frequent changes). Part 1 of the code contains general provisions (such as zone map, zone factor, etc.) applicable to all types of structures, and specific provisions for buildings. It was published in 2002 and drew heavily from the draft code developed (Murty and Jain 1995) under a project sponsored by the Council of Industrial and Scientific Research (CSIR).
Three other sections of IS 1893 addressing liquid retaining tanks (part 2; published in 2014), bridges and retaining walls (part 3; published in 2014) and industrial structures (part 4; published in 2005) are now available. The section on dams and embankments is still in process. Part 2 containing provisions on liquid retaining tanks is based on the work done under the GSDMA project (Jain and Jaiswal 2007).
IS 4326 contains general principles for design of buildings, including empirical seismic provisions for masonry buildings. It was first published in 1967 and revised in 1976. It also included some nominal requirements for ductile detailing of reinforced concrete buildings but these were not implemented in practice. This code was revised again in 1993, but the ductile detailing provisions were taken out of this code and included in a new code (IS 13920).
Two new codes, IS 13827 and IS 13828 were published in 1993 containing empirical seismic provisions for (i) earthen buildings, and (ii) low strength masonry buildings, respectively. The rationale was that such housing is common in large parts of India and continues to cause a significant number of deaths in earthquakes. Rather than expecting that such buildings will stop being constructed, it may be better to provide some guidance on improving their earthquake resistance. Much of this guidance was drawn from the ‘Guidelines for earthquake-resistant non-engineered construction’, published by the International Association for Earthquake Engineering (IAEE 1986).
IS 13920–1993 for the first time provided comprehensive ductile detailing requirements for reinforced concrete structures in regions of high seismicity. This was the result of more than a year-long effort with special funding provided by IIT Kanpur (Medhekar et al. 1992; Medhekar and Jain 1993). A revised version based primarily on work done under the GSDMA project is about to be printed as of January 2015.
IS 13935 when published in 1993 was titled Indian Standard Guidelines for Repair and Seismic Strengthening of Buildings; again much of it was drawn from the IAEE guidelines on non-engineered construction (IAEE 1986). This code was revised in 2009 with the modified title of Indian Standard Guidelines for Seismic Evaluation, Repair and Strengthening of Masonry Buildings. It now contains a relatively simplistic rapid visual assessment method, wherein, depending on the material used in the building, its expected damage category in different seismic zones is indicated.
IS 15988 was published in 2013 based on the work done by Professor Durgesh C. Rai at IIT Kanpur for the GSDMA project for seismic evaluation and strengthening of existing buildings (Rai 2005).
5.4 Seismic codes for the design of bridges
The design of highway bridges in India is governed by the codes of Indian Roads Congress (IRC), and of railway bridges by the Bridge Rules of Indian Railways. Since both provide seismic provisions, the BIS code provisions on seismic design of bridges are not commonly used. However, in some instances, the client may require that the railway bridge must comply with the more conservative of the provisions of the BIS code and Bridge Rules.
The IRC: 6 (Indian Roads Congress 1966) provides requirements on loads and stresses for the design of highway bridges. The code was first published in 1958 and has been revised from time to time. The 1958 version provided three seismic zones with design seismic coefficients as zero, 5 %g, 10 % g, respectively, for the first three zones. Further, the zone map also marked out several epicentral tracts based on the occurrence of past earthquakes; for such areas the design coefficient was left at the discretion of the engineer responsible for the design. In 1979, the code adopted the seismic zone map of IS 1893 with the five seismic zones, and provided design seismic coefficients that depended not only on seismic zones, but also on the importance of the bridge and the type of soil and foundation system.
The collapse of the 56 m span Gawana bridge in the 1991 Uttarkashi earthquake caused significant disruption for several days to a strategic road and stranded the pilgrims at Gangotri. Seeing the inadequacy of seismic code provisions based on this collapse, a proposal was submitted to the Ministry of Surface Transport (MOST) of the Government of India to seek funds to undertake a systematic study on the state of the art of seismic design of bridges across the world, and to develop draft Indian codal provisions. The study was sponsored by the MOST after the 1993 Latur earthquake and enabled systematic study of the issue and development of a draft of a modern seismic code (Murty and Jain 1997, 2000; Jain and Murty 1998). A number of 1-week continuing education programmes were also conducted at IIT Kanpur starting in 1996 on the seismic design of bridges that were attended by a significant number of professional engineers.
As a result of this study and the training programmes, the flexibility of bridges (fundamental natural period) was included in 2003 in consideration of the seismic design coefficient. Interim provisions for seismic design were approved by the IRC in 2003 that provided for a seismic coefficient depending on seismic zone, flexibility of the bridge, and type of soil. These provided for a fixed value for the response reduction factor (R) as 2.5 regardless of the type of bridge and for all parts of the bridge, and required that ductile detailing be carried out for bridges in high seismic zones. In 2010, more detailed seismic provisions were adopted by IRC wherein the response reduction factor (R) varies from 1.0 to 4.0 depending on the type of substructure and bearings. It was only in 2011 that IRC codes moved from working stress design to limit state design for concrete structures (IRC 2011), and hence in 2014, the seismic provisions were further revised to make these consistent with limit state design.
Until recently, the seismic design provisions of the Indian Railways continued to provide a seismic design coefficient that was independent of the flexibility of the bridge. A study was sponsored by the Research Design and Standards Organisation of the Indian Railways at IIT Kanpur to develop modern seismic provisions for railway bridges supported by commentary and explanatory examples. This resulted in development of IITK-RDSO Guidelines on Seismic Design of Railway Bridges in 2010 (Jain et al. 2010a, b). Indian Railways had a number of consultations and discussions on this document and in January 2015 formally approved a modified version of it with lower seismic design forces as RDSO Guidelines for Seismic Design of Railway Bridges (RDSO 2015).
5.5 The way forward
The above discussion illustrates that there has been a very significant disconnect and time lag between the development of seismic design codes in India with respect to developments in earthquake engineering elsewhere. For instance, until 2003 the IRC provided for a seismic design force on highway bridges that did not depend on the flexibility (natural period) of the bridge. Similarly, seismic design forces for railway bridges remained independent of structural flexibility until 2015. The BIS codes too have been slow to update; in some cases more than two decades lapse between revisions. This state is a reflection of several challenges in India. To begin with, there are too few experts in earthquake engineering for India’s needs. Further, many experts do not appreciate the time and effort needed for development of codes. When codes are not updated in a timely manner, the gap between state-of-the-practice in India vis-à-vis other seismic countries increases disproportionately. Indian professionals’ knowledge thus becomes dated and the learning curve to understand needed changes in theory and practice becomes too steep, resulting in higher resistance to changes. To enable the professionals to appreciate changes in the code and implement these smoothly, it is important to simultaneously develop commentaries and explanatory handbooks. All this requires a significant amount of work requiring funds, and cannot be carried out by voluntary committee membership alone. A substantial amount of work on codes was carried out at IIT Kanpur because funding for this purpose became available from a number of agencies such as Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Ministry of Surface Transport (MOST), Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority (GSDMA) and Research Design and Standards Organization (RDSO). If the country is to catch up with other developed seismic countries in this area, appropriate funding must be allocated by the concerned organizations for development of seismic codes.
The codes of practice are useful only if these are implemented in actual construction. Until 2001, the seismic codes in India were not mandatory and were only recommendations. After 2001, many cities and states started to require compliance with seismic codes. However, most often there has been no enforcement and no mechanisms exist in most of the country to prevent someone from constructing a building that does not comply with the codes. While on one hand, the country must work on regular updates of the codes, on the other hand, it is even more critical to create mechanisms for implementation and enforcement of the existing codes.
6 Capacity-building initiatives
Capacity-building initiatives in earthquake engineering have been in place in India in some form for decades. The Government of India, particularly through its Ministries of Human Resource Development and Home Affairs, has been involved in various capacity-building initiatives, as have state governments and the various IITs, colleges, universities and many non-governmental organizations (NGOs). These initiatives can range from professional development programmes, to training of masons, including the development of handbooks and guidelines, to awareness-building workshops to technical short courses. The need for such initiatives has become particularly apparent after recent major earthquakes, where post-earthquake damage surveys illustrate widespread use of unsafe design, detailing and construction practices. These earthquakes make it clear that there is a need for more knowledge for everyone involved all along the chain of the construction process, from the building owner, the architect, the engineer, the contractor, the mason and the municipal official. Hundreds of damaged and collapsed building sites tell the same disturbing story—poor architectural configuration, inadequate structural design, lack of proper detailing and poor construction and inspection practices. The stakeholders are many and include not only those directly involved in design, construction and management, but the community as a whole. An aware and sensitized community is an important cornerstone of a strong earthquake risk reduction program. However, the awareness and concern of a community towards safety must be supported by competent professionals. Hence, it is critically important to undertake capacity-building of professionals engaged in design and construction, particularly structural engineers and architects.
While there are many types of capacity-building initiatives targeted at many different stakeholders, this section will focus on several particularly successful initiatives targeted at professional engineers and architects and at colleges of engineering and architecture. An interesting and happy coincidence actually contributed to this. In the 1980’s a group of young structural engineers trained in earthquake engineering in some leading universities overseas joined the IITs as regular faculty members to teach structural engineering (Jain 2008). They brought to the institutes their research interests in earthquake engineering and the discipline grew.
6.1 Continuing education programmes
In the initial courses, there was tremendous resistance amongst the professionals to accept concepts of earthquake-resistant design. For instance, an engineer with 20 years of professional practice would usually find it very unsettling to learn that his analysis, design or detailing methods were inadequate. Over the years this resistance reduced, and by the time of the 2001 Bhuj earthquake a significant number of professionals in the country had become familiar with earthquake design. Between 1992 and 2002 about 2000 professional engineers were trained in seismic design courses conducted in different parts of India, Nepal and Bhutan. Collapses of numerous buildings in the Bhuj earthquake significantly reduced the resistance that professionals had towards earthquake design concepts.
Over the years, a large number of other continuing education programmes in earthquake engineering have been organized at the various IITs, including IIT Roorkee which has had a programme for the last 40 years, IIT Kanpur which has had a very active programme in the last two decades, and IIT Gandhinagar which began a series of continuing education programmes in 2011. These programmes have been extremely valuable in taking earthquake engineering concepts to professionals, and significant improvements have taken place in the construction practices in the country as a result of these. For instance, in 1999 it was heartening to see in the small town of Imphal (in highest seismic zone V) several buildings under construction with seismic detailing of reinforcement as a result of the efforts of course participants (Jain and Murty 2003; Jain 2010).
6.2 Two workshops at Kanpur
What if a group of select academics and professionals were to meet at one place for three days and have free across-the-table discussions, without a rigid agenda and without having any formal presentations? This simple question over a casual conversation resulted in two brain-storming workshops at IIT Kanpur that later proved very effective towards capacity-building for seismic safety.
Should we continue to let earthquake-resistant constructions be handled by specialists only, or should an average civil engineer responsible for construction be expected to know about appropriate earthquake technology for day-to-day constructions?
Should earthquake-resistant construction be taught as a separate subject in the engineering curriculum, or should the topics related to earthquake engineering be merged with the existing courses?
Should earthquake engineering maintain an identity outside the normal civil engineering industry or become a part of civil engineering industry itself?
How best to achieve the following goal: professional civil engineers should be able to ensure earthquake-resistant constructions without seeking help from “earthquake engineering experts,” particularly for the run-of-the-mill constructions.
The workshop participation was by invitation, and 19 persons from across the country, representing academia, industry, and R&D laboratories, participated in intense discussions over three days. Numerous ideas emerged, clarity was obtained on many issues, and a number of recommendations pertaining to earthquake engineering in general, and the civil engineering curriculum in particular emerged from the workshop.
The second such workshop on “Developing Earthquake Engineering Industry in India: Opportunities & Challenges” was organized at Kanpur during 14–16 October 1998 and included 22 participants from across the country and of diverse backgrounds (Murty et al. 1999). The main question that this meeting addressed was: challenges ahead and opportunities available for developing an earthquake engineering industry wherein earthquake-related services and products can be conveniently available.
Besides generating numerous excellent recommendations and providing clarity to many fuzzy ideas, the workshops enabled a group of enthusiasts to spend time together, know each other, and form a community. These turned out to be preparatory meetings that led to two major initiatives in India discussed below: the establishment of the National Information Centre for Earthquake Engineering (NICEE) at IIT Kanpur in 1999, and the National Programme on Earthquake Engineering Education (NPEEE) conducted during 2003–2007. Thanks to the vision and clarity provided by these workshops, it was possible to leverage the opportunity provided by the 2001 earthquake. The informal network and the community that emerged out of these meetings were critical for the implementation of these new initiatives. Looking back, the investment of time and money on these two meetings could be termed as amongst the best investments made by the author in his professional career.
6.3 National information centre of earthquake engineering (NICEE)
One of the key observations from the 1996 workshop at IIT Kanpur was that the gap between the international state-of-the-art and that in India had been widening with time. A major contributor to this situation was the non-availability of books, journals and other technical reports to Indian academics and professionals for various reasons (Jain and Murty 2003). The workshop recommended that a national resource centre be created to enable anyone anywhere in the country to borrow books and reports.
To keep track of availability of new publications and other materials in the area of earthquake engineering.
To create and maintain a decent storehouse of publications and other materials on earthquake engineering.
To disseminate information about availability of the above material at IITK to interested professionals, researchers and academicians, and,
To make available the material to interested persons in a timely manner.
A strong endorsement by Professor N. C. Nigam, the then-President of the Indian Society for Earthquake Technology and Vice Chancellor of the University of Roorkee (now IIT Roorkee) to the proposal was critically helpful to raise funds for the Centre. In the first instance, an endowment of Rs 5 million (~€90,000)4 was raised from four organizations: Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUDCO), Telecom Commission, Railway Board, and Ministry of Agriculture of Government of India. In addition, the Board of Research in Nuclear Sciences (BRNS) provided a recurring grant for 3 years towards the Centre.
After the first grant was received from HUDCO in 1999, a modest level of activities of the Centre started without making a formal announcement. However, the 2001 Bhuj earthquake created an unprecedented urgency and the focus shifted from fund-raising to information dissemination. Within a few days of the earthquake, NICEE web site was launched with IAEE guidelines on non-engineered constructions (IAEE 1986) as a key resource and it was widely accessed by engineers in Gujarat.
6.3.2 The centre
Even though housed within IIT Kanpur, NICEE operates as a national resource. A number of colleagues in the country (and outside) provide leadership in various activities of the Centre. The Centre is managed by a National Advisory Committee consisting of representatives from different institutions in the country, industries, and individuals; the Committee meets annually, reviews activities of the Centre and provides guidance and advice.
In its early days, a number of organizations and individuals provided their publications or other resources as a gift, e.g., Multidisciplinary Centre for Earthquake Engineering Research (MCEER) at Buffalo (USA), Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI) in USA, New Zealand National Society for Earthquake Engineering (NZSEE), the late Professor George Housner of the California Institute of Technology Pasadena, and the late Professor N C Nigam in India.
The Centre was conceived so as to minimize its operational costs, by utilizing the infrastructure and the administration of IIT Kanpur. For instance, all books and publications procured by the Centre are placed in and managed by the Central Library of the Institute, and IIT Kanpur handles all administration, accounts and audits in the usual manner.
The Centre currently incurs expenditures of the order of Rs 4 million (~€60,000) per year, which it covers by donations, sponsorships, interest earnings of its endowment, and the sale of publications. To date, about 500 unique donors have made contributions to the Centre, with an average contribution of Rs 15,000 (~€200) and a median contribution of Rs 3000 (~€40). The NICEE publications are priced very nominally and many are distributed free of charge.
With time, the scope of NICEE activities has been enlarged considerably, from the initial intent of a library-oriented Centre, to a Centre that undertakes a number of outreach and capacity-building activities. Some of its important activities are described in the following section.
Key components of NICEE
Communication and dissemination
Centre’s web site (www.nicee.org) launched immediately after the 2001 earthquake; As of January 2015, ~35,000 access/day, with more than 1220 MB/day downloads
A monthly electronic newsletter to more than 12,000 persons as of January 2015
Articles and other literature either free of charge or for a very nominal charge
Commemorated first anniversary of the 2001 earthquake by organizing a 2-week e-conference on “Indian Seismic Codes” (January 26 to February 8, 2002). About 1200 persons participated; about 100 persons from ten countries made about 300 postings during the 2 weeks, and numerous issues on Indian codes were resolved or articulated (Rai and Sheth 2002)
During August 26–31, 2002s e-conference on “Professional Issues in Structural Engineering in India”. Received an enormous response
Both e-conferences clearly showed the need for forum to electronically discuss and share ideas
Resulted in creation of an independent discussion forum “Structural Engineers Forum of India” to mark second anniversary of Bhuj earthquake (www.sefindia.org)
Publishing and distributing numerous books and monographs at nominal charge or free-of-cost
Distributes inexpensive Indian reprints of many useful publications with permission of the original publishers
Video recordings of lectures or power point slides on a given topic disseminated as CD’s
Translations of important publications in regional languages
To 2014, about 90,000 copies of publications distributed
Built on premise that continuous flow of current information is critically needed
Started quarterly periodical “Earthquake Engineering Practice” wherein already published articles of other reputed journals (with due permissions, with possibly some delay) are included
Articles particularly from EERI’s Earthquake Spectra and Bulletin of New Zealand National Society for Earthquake Engineering
Distributed on system of “voluntary price”; one has option to receive free of charge or for nominal price
As of 2014, more than 3400 subscribers receive the Practice free of charge, including 300 individuals overseas from 68 countries
World conference proceedings
The International Association for Earthquake Engineering (IAEE) been sponsoring a World Conference in Earthquake Engineering (WCEE) once every 4 years since 1956
Number of conference papers increasing year after year; for instance, proceedings of the 15th conference in Lisbon in 2012 contains more than 3300 papers
At request of IAEE, NICEE undertook a massive project to put all world conference papers on website
Included scanning 5360 research papers (about 40,000 pages) from first ten conferences
All available on NICEE website for free access
Distribution of ETABS and SAP to colleges
NICEE negotiated with Computers and Structures Inc, Berkeley, USA to donate their software ETABS and SAP free of charge to engineering colleges in the country
To date more than 250 colleges availed themselves of this opportunity
Annual earthquake engineering review workshop for master’s students
In 2001 started an annual 1-week literature review workshop at IIT Kanpur for graduate students pursuing thesis in earthquake engineering from across the country
To date more than 650 students from 70 colleges in India and Nepal have participated
In addition to literature survey, participants get to meet faculty and students of IIT Kanpur, tour laboratory facilities (Jain and Murty 2003)
Annual workshop for architectural students
In 2008 started annual workshop at IIT Kanpur for architectural students (see discussion in Sect. 6.5.4)
Inter school quiz for children
In 2009 started annual quiz on earthquake safety for school children
Based on Earthquake Tips
More than 350 schools in 50 cities in the country have participated to date
6.4 National programme on earthquake engineering education
Extensive media coverage of the enormous loss of life and damages after the 2001 Bhuj earthquake brought the reality of the earthquake disaster into sharp focus, and as a shocked nation became more receptive than ever before to the devastation of an earthquake disaster, the ground was laid for capacity-building initiatives directed at earthquake safety. The preparatory work through deliberations at the 1996 Workshop at IIT Kanpur described above were effectively leveraged to get an ambitious pan-India project for capacity-building in colleges of engineering and architecture in the area of earthquake engineering. This section describes the National Programme on Earthquake Engineering Education (NPEEE) supported by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), Government of India and managed by the seven IITs and the IISc Bangalore during 2003–2007, with IIT Kanpur providing overall leadership.
6.4.2 The programme
The programme was open to all colleges/polytechnics of engineering or architecture, privately or publicly funded. The programme had a limited focus—training of faculty (of colleges of engineering and architecture, and of polytechnics) and curriculum development. At that time, India had 1000+ institutes teaching civil engineering or architecture at diploma, undergraduate or postgraduate levels. Most of these were not teaching earthquake engineering elements in the curriculum and had varying levels of earthquake engineering expertise within their faculty. While outreach activities such as organizing workshops and development of teaching laboratories were supported, the programme was not meant to support research and development in earthquake engineering. It was felt that supporting research and development might cause a loss of focus, and in any case there were other concerned Ministries of the Government of India to support R&D.
Initially the project was approved for a 3-year duration with a budget of Rs 137 million (about €2.5 million at that time); the duration was later extended to a fourth year, even though champions of the project felt that the project should continue for at least 10–20 years to make a full impact. All eight resource institutes that operated the programme had regular operating expenses fully funded by the same ministry (MHRD); hence, the budget did not include salaries, buildings or any administrative costs.
Key components of NPEEE
One to four week training programmes conducted for interested faculty members from engineering colleges, polytechnics and architecture colleges
Short-term training enabled college administrators to send their teachers for training without compromising their semester teaching responsibilities
Particularly useful to give an initial exposure to earthquake engineering, as well as for higher-end specialized topics
In all, 1360 teachers received a total of about 1900 person-weeks of training under this programme
Costs connected with training, including boarding, lodging and travel of faculty members covered by programme funds
Three of the resource institutions also conducted one-semester certificate courses in Earthquake Engineering
59 teachers trained
Courses treated as continuing education programmes with regular homework assignments and examinations
Certificate awarded to teachers on successful completion
Many teachers with postgraduate degrees found one-semester programme to be very useful to develop in-depth expertise in earthquake engineering
Costs connected with training, including boarding, lodging and travel of faculty members covered by programme funds
Programme provided earthquake engineering books and publications (worth Rs 100,000, about ~€1800 per college) to 100 colleges in the country
Colleges were selected based on their faculty expertise and ongoing activities in earthquake engineering
The books were procured centrally and shipped to the colleges
The eight resource institutes also each provided with a sum of Rs 300,000 (~€5400) for enhancing their own library resources
Ten colleges, selected on basis of credentials in earthquake engineering, provided with a sum of Rs 1.5 million each (about €27,000) to develop basic teaching laboratories
Colleges made their own decisions on equipment, allowing for flexibility to meet their own needs and requirements
8 resource institutes provided with a sum of Rs 5 million (about €90,000) each to enhance their teaching and research laboratories
Funds provided for visits of 7 overseas academics (from Canada, New Zealand, Slovenia, and USA) to resource institutions for duration of about 1 month
Partial travel grants (up to Rs 50,000, about €900) provided to Indian academics to attend international conferences (76 teachers used these grants)
9 young teachers were sent to overseas universities (in Canada, Japan, New Zealand, UK and USA) for 6-month post-doctoral research opportunities
Collaborative activities resulted from visits of international academics from overseas. For example, during visit of Professor Svetlana Brzev to IIT Kanpur a new monograph (Brzev 2008) was developed on Confined Masonry, and this provided the seed to grow the activities to propagate the use of confined masonry in India and elsewhere (See Sect. 8)
Development of curricula and resource materials
Developed resource materials for a teaching laboratory in earthquake engineering which included (a) students manual, (b) a teachers manual, and (c) fabrication manual with all details so typical college could develop the experimental set-ups at a very low cost
Manual made available for free download on NPEEE web site and provided on a CD. Used by number of colleges to develop their own teaching laboratories
Government of Gujarat sponsored a programme wherein L D College in Ahmedabad developed the standard teaching laboratory for earthquake engineering that was procured by 25 colleges in Gujarat
Development and distribution of RESIST
Software RESIST (developed by Prof. Charleson in New Zealand) helps architecture students integrate structural issues in their designs
NPEEE sponsored an Indian version of RESIST and distributed this to the colleges (see discussion in Sect. 6.5.2)
Conferences and outreach
Funded, fully or partially, large number of conferences and workshops organized by resource institutions, in earthquake engineering and related areas
Supported outreach activities by the colleges through workshops, trainings, and conferences
NPEEE has been useful in capacity-building of colleges and teachers: Average response 4.62 (out of maximum 5.0) from the colleges, and 4.76 from the teachers.
The Programme has operated well: Average response 4.40 (out of maximum 5.0) from the colleges, and 4.65 from the teachers.
The Programme should continue: Average response 4.84 (out of maximum 5.0) from the colleges, and 4.91 from the teachers.
A good number of colleges started to teach earthquake engineering. The 2005 survey indicated that (a) 69 colleges out of the 94 colleges that responded teach earthquake engineering, and (b) 117 teachers, out of the 177 who responded, indicated that their respective colleges teach earthquake engineering.
The success of the Programme can be attributed largely to transparent administrative mechanisms, non-discriminatory policies with regard to private versus government funded institutes, a feasible and manageable domain of operations, and its human resources that drew upon strongly motivated and committed individuals working as a cohesive team. A very significant amount of capacity was built as a result of the Programme in the incorporation of earthquake engineering in engineering and architectural education that will pay rich dividends in the years ahead.
6.5 Interventions towards the architectural profession and education
If we have a poor configuration to start with, all the engineer can do is to provide a band-aid – improve a basically poor solution as best as he can. Conversely, if we start off with a good configuration and a reasonable framing system, even a poor engineer can’t harm its ultimate performance too much.
Charleson (1997) refers to a study that confirmed the view that the architectural concept may be more detrimental to the seismic survival of a building than any other design decision. It is therefore imperative that architects understand and appreciate the concepts of earthquake-resistant design.
A number of initiatives have been undertaken in India to bring the architectural community, including professionals, faculty, and students, within the ambit of earthquake safety. As a result, many architectural colleges are also now addressing the subject of the earthquake performance of buildings.
6.5.1 Earthquake-resistant curriculum in architecture colleges
A strategic decision was made in formulating the National Programme on Earthquake Engineering Education (NPEEE) to include the colleges and faculty of architecture on a par with colleges and faculty of civil engineering. This was critically beneficial towards bringing earthquake engineering to the colleges of architecture; a number of curriculum workshops were held to bring earthquake safety into the architectural curricula (e.g., Jain et al. 2004), and a number of faculty members from architectural colleges were trained under the programme. The task of introducing changes in the architectural curriculum is a bit more challenging than doing so with the civil engineering curriculum. The concepts of the earthquake behaviour of buildings need to be innovatively linked to the process of architectural design for the students to develop an appreciation of the same. As a result of this effort, earthquake-resistant architecture has been included in the academic curriculum of a number of undergraduate colleges of architecture in the country.
6.5.2 Resource materials for architects
IITK-BMTPC Earthquake Tips, described below, were mailed by NICEE to about 10,000 professional architects in India free-of-charge. Subsequently, the Tips were included in the professional directory of the Indian Institute of Architects (IIA) to ensure that every architect member of IIA will have the Tips readily available on his or her bookshelf.
A special project was undertaken by Prof. C. V. R. Murty (of IIT Kanpur) and Prof. Andrew Charleson (of Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand) under the sponsorship of NPEEE under which they developed ~600 Power Point slides with notes. These are meant to enable teachers within architecture schools to cover the model curriculum for architecture students in 27 lectures. These are distributed both in hard and soft copy format (Murty and Charleson 2006).
NPEEE sponsored a special project by Professor Andrew Charleson wherein he developed an Indian version of RESIST software (that he had originally developed for use by students in New Zealand) for use by architectural students in India. The programme enables a student to get a rough idea of the sizes of frame elements or shear walls needed for a building design project, given the wind and seismic zones in which the building is located. It is a very useful tool to sensitize the students to start thinking of adequate structural sizes while planning the building, and has been distributed to most of the architectural colleges in India.
6.5.3 Ministry of home affairs seminars
A series of seminars throughout the nation were organized in 2004 and 2005 as a joint programme with the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India and the Continuing Education Programme of the Indian Institute of Architects on “The Role of Architects Towards a Seismically Safe Built Environment”. The concept and the content for the one-day seminar was developed in consultation with faculty at IIT Kanpur. The seminar consisted of lectures by one resource person from a structural engineering background and one from an architectural background. The participants were also provided sufficient reading materials.
The Institute organized 21 one-day seminars across the country, often with Relief Commissioners, Disaster Management Departments and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) state units. Approximately 110–150 architects (professional architects as well as faculty members in architectural schools) attended each of the 21 seminars, and approximately 2700 architects benefitted from this seminar series.
6.5.4 Annual workshop for architectural students at IIT Kanpur
6.5.5 NICEE outreach events for architects
NICEE has also engaged with architects and architectural students during their own major events. For instance, NICEE has participated in a number of Conventions of the National Association of Students of Architecture (NASA), wherein presentations are made on different aspects of earthquake-resistant design and on the historical aspects of earthquake-resistant architecture from antiquity to contemporary times. Resource materials have been distributed to the future architects and a quiz has been conducted with cash awards based on the Earthquake Tips, discussed in the next section (Jain 2010). NICEE also participated in the 2008 conference of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation of Architects (SAARCH) in New Delhi.
6.6 Earthquake tips
6.7 Other capacity-building initiatives
The regular occurrence every 2–3 years of damaging earthquakes since 1988 has also had its impact on how the Government of India deals with disasters. After the 1999 Orissa Supercyclone, with an official death toll in excess of 8000, the Government of India formed a “High Power Committee” to look into the issues of disasters and to make recommendations. After the 2001 Bhuj earthquake, the subject of natural disasters was moved from the Ministry of Agriculture to the Ministry of Home Affairs, and after the 2004 Sumatra earthquake and tsunami, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) was formed. The Disaster Management Act of 2005 (DM Act 2005) was enacted to develop the institutional and coordination mechanisms for effective disaster management. This Act stipulates that a National Plan on Disaster Management shall be prepared in consultation with the State Governments and expert bodies and organizations in the field of disaster management. The Act also stipulates that every Ministry and Department of the Government of India shall make provisions, in its annual plan budgets, for carrying out activities and programmes set out in the disaster management plans. Subsequent to this, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) was set up under the Chairmanship of the Prime Minister.
Several years back the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India initiated two programmes for the training of practising architects and engineers (GoI 2004): the National Programme for Capacity-building of Architects in Earthquake Risk Management (NPCBAERM) and the National Programme for Capacity-building of Engineers in Earthquake Risk Management (NPCBEERM). Under the project, 2-5 State Resource Institutes in each State/Union Territory (UT) were identified to conduct training programmes for engineers and architects in the State public works departments, other government organizations and in the private sector. The project also created resource institutes to assist the urban local bodies in the review and revision of the byelaws to incorporate the Bureau of Indian Standard Codes and also to train municipal engineers in earthquake-resistant construction and retrofitting techniques. The goal was to reach 10,000 engineers and 10,000 practicing architects. Eleven national resource institutions were designated, including seven of the Indian Institutes of Technology.
Different State governments have also instituted some capacity-building initiatives. The State Disaster Management Authorities (SDMA) were set up according to the provisions of the DM Act, 2005. Sensitization and awareness building training programmes are part of the mandate of SDMA’s and some of these organizations have been quite active.
In addition to government initiatives in capacity-building there are also academic institutions and professional associations as well as NGOs engaged in such activities. Some of these initiatives focus specifically on earthquake risk reduction, such as an earthquake risk reduction programme by GeoHazards Society (GHS) targeted at Aizawl City, capital of the state of Mizoram (GeoHazards Society India 2015). Some focus more broadly on structural engineering issues (including earthquake safety) such as the Structural Engineers Forum of India with its 18,000 members (SEFI 2015), and some even more specifically on earthquake engineering issues, such as the journal, newsletter and annual lecture organized by the Indian Society of Earthquake Technology (ISET 2015). Some organizations focus on improving construction practices more generally, such as through mason training programmes and development of construction guidelines; these include NGOs such as People-in-Centre (People in Centre 2015) and National Centre for Peoples’ Action in Disaster Preparedness (NCPDP 2015).
The preceding discussion hopefully gives a flavour of the range of capacity-building initiatives that exist in India, from education and training and continuing education programmes to curriculum development activities, some of which are ongoing while others have been rather short-lived. Some initiatives have had a huge impact while some had limited success despite being conceptualized on a large scale. Capacity-building has to be an ongoing process, with both short and long term targets to achieve sustainable results.
7 Learning from recent events
In the last several decades, after major earthquakes in India, there have been innovative rebuilding programmes developed that try to incorporate mitigation, earthquake preparedness, and improvements in seismically resistant design. Several of the rebuilding efforts have generated innovative changes in these practices as well as some interesting social innovations, although these changes have not always proven to be sustainable from one event to the next. This section reviews some of the basic innovations from several recent events.
7.1 Reconstruction after the deadly Latur, Maharashtra Earthquake, 1993
Vulnerable housing stock.
Shallow focus of the earthquake, which caused very intense shaking in a small area.
Time of the event—(early morning when many people were asleep in vulnerable structures).
With funding support from the national government as well as international donor agencies, particularly the World Bank, the Government of Maharashtra (GoM) carried out a comprehensive rebuilding programme. This was the first large-scale rebuilding programme in India since independence, and some of the lessons learned from this experience have been very valuable. The state government established a Project Management Unit (PMU) to guide all aspects of the Maharashtra Emergency Earthquake Rehabilitation Programme (MEERP), which in addition to a major housing reconstruction component also included improvements to infrastructure, economic rehabilitation, social and community rehabilitation, technical assistance and disaster management.
Relocation of 52 completely devastated villages including reconstruction at new sites (category A);
Reconstruction of houses and basic amenities in another 22 severely damaged villages (category B);
In-situ Repair, Reconstruction and Strengthening (RRS) in over 2000 affected villages spread over 13 districts in Maharashtra. This was by far the largest component in terms of affecting the most houses–228,500 (category C).
Appointing 700 junior engineers who provided technical assistance in the villages;
Setting up material depots throughout the entire region;
Procuring construction material through international competitive bidding;
Setting up bank accounts for about 200,000 programme beneficiaries;
Setting up procedures for payment of installments;
Issuing coupons for release of construction materials;
Appointing community participation consultants specifically for this component; and
Appointing communications facilitators (Samvad Sahayak), generally women, at the village level to help villagers understand all the various aspects of the programme.
The relocation element of the Maharashtra rebuilding programme became the most visible and the most controversial. However, this component was comparatively a smaller part of the entire programme. The largest was the RRS component, which covered over 200,000 participants in more than 2000 villages spread over 13 districts of the state. Under this category, the GoM provided two different packages of financial assistance based on the amount of structural damage suffered. Guidelines from the International Association for Earthquake Engineering (IAEE 1986) were used to identify five damage categories. More than one million people participated in this programme, which took on the dimensions of a housing movement (Vatsa 2001).
Beneficiaries in the RSS programme were initially given the option of repairing and strengthening their homes, but this approach did not find acceptance among these beneficiaries (Vatsa 2001). Rather, beneficiaries looked upon this assistance as an opportunity to add to their living space. Stones used in their old houses continued to be a source of fear, and they preferred to use burnt clay bricks for any new construction.
This earthquake happened in an area that was considered non-seismic, and placed in the lowest seismic zone of the Indian code. Hence, there were serious concerns as to the validity of the prevailing seismic zone map and the GoM sponsored the development of a probabilistic earthquake hazard map specifically for the Maharashtra state by experts from Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University. The study by Lamont-Doherty assumed that all reservoirs could trigger earthquakes, and in preparation of a zone map for Maharashtra considered not only the geologic data and historic seismicity, but also the distribution of reservoirs (Nikolic-Brzev et al. 1999). However, the zone map thus prepared was not seriously discussed for implementation, perhaps because a zone map is conventionally seen for the entire country and not for individual states. Had this exercise covered the entire country, rather than just the state, it might have been far more useful towards improving the seismic zone map of India.
A number of lessons emerged from the implementation of the Maharashtra programme that were relevant for the Bhuj earthquake rehabilitation programme in Gujarat. In particular the discussion on owner-driven versus contractor-managed construction, relocation versus in situ rebuilding and the need for training and new guidelines and codes, drew on experiences from Latur.
7.2 A watershed event: the Bhuj earthquake and its reconstruction
On 26 January 2001, an earthquake of magnitude 7.7 occurred in western India. The epicenter was in the Kutch district of the state of Gujarat and created massive destruction in the western and central parts of the state. This was a watershed event for India and led to numerous initiatives towards earthquake safety (refer to the discussion in Sect. 6 on NPEEE and NICEE, for example). The reconstruction was also influenced by lessons from rebuilding after the Latur, Maharashtra earthquake. Many people, in government, academia and the NGO sectors, who had been involved in Latur also played roles in the Bhuj reconstruction and brought their observations and recommendations to the design of various aspects of the reconstruction programme.
Over 1000 materials banks were established to supply cement and steel at subsidized prices.
Technical assistance was brought into help in the rebuilding process, and particularly to focus on promoting earthquake-resistant technology, by providing training to almost 29,000 masons and 6200 engineers.
- Supporting the rebuilding of over 200,000 housing units and the repair of another 900,000 units. In most cases owners participated actively in the rebuilding and assisted in the design and construction of their homes (Fig. 45). In 20 % of the cases, a public/private partnership between NGOs and the government was instrumental in rebuilding the housing. Little construction work was done by government agencies themselves.
A quality control organization was employed—a consortium of two government agencies (National Council for Cement and Building Materials and the Central Building Research Institute) and a university (Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay) (Murty et al. 2005).
Assistance packages were developed for those who lost their livelihoods.
Social innovations were advanced, such as setting up bank accounts for direct deposit of housing payments, and requiring that the new houses be registered jointly in the name of both husband and wife.
- Nongovernmental organizations developed innovative techniques for sharing information with individual owners and tenants (Fig. 47).
Seismic safety was placed on the national agenda, resulting in new codes and changes in building practices as well as continuing discussions in the social science community on the relationship between earthquake recovery and ongoing development.
While it is not possible to discuss all these innovations in detail, several are highlighted in the following paragraphs; Murty et al. (2005) provide a more comprehensive treatment of the rebuilding effort.
7.2.1 Rebuilding options
As with many recent earthquakes, housing was the most seriously affected sector, with close to 215,000 housing units completely destroyed and approximately 928,000 requiring repairs. The government of Gujarat’s housing recovery policy focused on developing a participatory, community-driven process, with communities and individual households rebuilding on a self-help basis. Technical support was provided by government, NGOs, and village and local government systems. This major rebuilding component involved a comprehensive set of policies and implementation schemes. The GoG designed the entire reconstruction of the physical assets to be handled through two plans:
18.104.22.168 Owner-driven plan
22.214.171.124 Public–private partnership plan
A fairly general consensus has been that the Bhuj rebuilding experience was successful, in part because of the emphasis on the owner-driven reconstruction. The state had to create an “enabling environment” for these owners (Barenstein and Iyengar 2010), which included cash provisions accompanied by the state regulating and/or subsidizing prices of key building materials, strengthening access to good quality construction materials, ensuring support to the most vulnerable, by developing relevant technical guidelines and facilitating technical support and training.
Interestingly, while there was a paradigm shift in the approach of the state government from Maharashtra after the Latur earthquake, to Gujarat, in terms of greater emphasis on the owner-driven approach, it appears that some NGOs were dissatisfied with the GoG approach and they tried to convince communities to adopt the NGO housing design and building technology. While some local NGOs supported self-help construction programmes through additional construction materials, training and technical assistance to communities who opted for financial compensation, most international NGOs proved to be less comfortable with owner-driven reconstruction, and went ahead with the same village adoption and contractor-driven approach they had followed 8 years earlier in Maharashtra (Barenstein and Iyengar 2010).
A survey of overall satisfaction with the quality of housing conducted by a research group in three villages in 2004 (Barenstein and Iyengar 2010) indicated that owner-driven reconstruction, supported by the government and some local NGOs, was the most satisfactory approach. The contractor-driven reconstruction in a relocated site, was the least satisfactory, with only 22.8 % satisfied, and only 3.5 % of people in this group considering the quality of construction to be adequate.
7.2.2 Capacity-building in the reconstruction
Capacity-building was encouraged at several levels and for a variety of stakeholders. One major emphasis in this programme was making the repaired and reconstructed housing earthquake-resistant. In order to do this, technical assistance was provided by assigning government engineers to oversee construction in the various villages (these engineers were also given special training), and by training masons in seismically resistant construction techniques.
In addition to these training programmes, the government developed an educational campaign focused on the need for multi-hazard-resistant reconstruction and retrofitting, as well as on the importance of longer-term disaster management planning. Materials targeted at the general public, such as posters, pamphlets, videos, audiotapes (for radio), and plays, were developed as part of this campaign. Messages regarding disaster-resistant construction were displayed on 600 state transport buses in the five most affected districts. Four special shake table demonstrations were also held as part of this campaign, which illustrated the performance of a small masonry house, with and without bands.
A major emphasis of this rebuilding programme was on mitigation and future disaster preparedness. Significant resources were directed to strengthen the state’s disaster management capabilities. This included components of disaster management, seismic engineering, communications, training, information technology, and finance. Providing the legal and institutional framework for this effort was the Disaster Management Act, giving the GSDMA authority to oversee disaster management activities, including the development of disaster management plans for all the districts, and the creation of the Gujarat Institute for Disaster Management, which offers a wide range of training programmes. This Disaster Management Act was the first such act established for a state in India and has been a model for other states.
7.3 Tsunami reconstruction
Tamil Nadu’s housing reconstruction was entirely contractor-driven, unlike the owner-driven housing reconstruction that had been followed after the 2001 Bhuj earthquake. The state chose to outsource the entire reconstruction as contracts to NGOs. The community’s role in decision making during the disaster recovery and rebuilding was minimal. As a result, though the houses built as part of the reconstruction programme were code compliant, the beneficiaries’ perception of recovery was low because the new dwellings lacked the comfort conditions of the vernacular systems they were used to for generations (Barenstein and Iyengar 2010). Arguably, the success of post-disaster recovery depends not only on the physical and structural aspects of the housing reconstruction, but also on how the survivors perceive their recovery. Thus, post disaster recovery, rebuilding and reconstruction programmes need to address physical safety, welfare and livelihood issues within a larger framework of cultural preferences, climatic considerations and sustainability.
The Tsunami Reconstruction Programme had one novel innovation in the working of the NGOs through the establishment of a NGO Coordination Centre (Murty et al. 2006). Within a few days of the tsunami event, it transpired that the tsunami-affected areas were not receiving equitable attention from the NGOs, with some areas receiving more attention than others, triggering protests from the survivors. In response, the Government of Tamil Nadu asked three prominent NGOs, experienced in disaster work, and familiar with the local milieu, to set up an NGO Coordination Centre on the premises of the Collector’s office in Nagapattinam. The volunteers at the NGO Coordination Centre helped in needs assessment, requisitioning of relief materials and their distribution and the Centre became quite effective in coordinating the relief work. Establishing these types of Coordination Centres during “peace time” can be an effective preparedness tool that provides a mechanism for coordination among groups of NGOs, civil society volunteers and other interested groups before the occurrence of a disaster, for seamless relief work when the disaster actually happens.
7.4 The way forward on learning from earthquakes
Every earthquake disaster (as well as other disasters), even though tragic, brings with it an opportunity to learn from it. This learning can be of two types: (a) lessons in terms of response of the built environment and response of the people, governments, and the society at large, and (b) experience gained in reconstruction. For example, some of the key players in the reconstruction of the Latur earthquake affected area were available to advise and share experiences at the time of the Bhuj earthquake but that may not always be the case. Further, the time window for taking important and critical decisions on rehabilitation of a disaster-affected area is rather short, and it is not always possible to find out adequate information on the experiences from past events. In order to be most useful for decision makers, the lessons from past events need to be readily available. Learning from such events needs to be organized, catalogued and shared in a timely manner, since much of the data is perishable, and the memory of tragic events can be short. With time, distortions in perceptions start to take place. It can be valuable to document lessons to ensure that rebuilding efforts after the next event continue to build on these experiences, not start again. India needs better mechanisms to institutionalize such learning, routinely sharing experiences across governments, disciplines and professions in workshops, journal articles and the web. The academic community across India can play a big role in documenting and analysing such learning.
8 Confined masonry initiative
8.1 The initiative
The earthquake-resistant features specified by IS 4326 for masonry buildings are often not provided in buildings; instead, one sees a number of three storey residential buildings under construction (even in a place like Delhi in seismic zone IV) with a number of small reinforced concrete columns. The use of masonry and reinforced concrete can be combined into a rational structural system of “confined masonry” which will have far better earthquake performance and the investment on reinforced concrete will not be wasted. Similarly, many three or four storey “reinforced concrete frame” apartment buildings are built in small and medium towns without engineering input and often lack even a proper framing system and load path. Such buildings too can benefit from confined masonry.
Basically, confined masonry buildings can show good seismic performance if provided with two key features: confinement and bond between masonry walls and the reinforced concrete confining elements that enclose these walls. Confined masonry has a proven record of good seismic performance and there has been a serious effort for the last decade in India to introduce confined masonry as a building typology in seismic regions of the country (Rai and Jain 2010). Although traditionally IS 4326 provided some provisions that resemble some of the features of confined masonry, introducing it as a separate technology is a significant improvement over current masonry construction practices.
As discussed above, in 2005, Dr. Svetlana Brzev, a masonry and concrete expert now teaching at the British Columbia Institute of Technology, Canada spent several weeks at IIT Kanpur under the National Programme on Earthquake Engineering Education (NPEEE) and developed a monograph on confined masonry that was published by the NICEE (Brzev 2008). In January 2008 NICEE (with support of EERI and WSSI) organized an international workshop on confined masonry. This workshop and brainstorming session led to the formation of the Confined Masonry Network (http://www.confinedmasonry.org/). A small group from this Network also met in Peru in 2009, and organized introductory sessions on the technology at world earthquake engineering conferences, including the 14th World Conference on Earthquake Engineering in Beijing, China. NICEE also published a monograph on confined masonry for builders authored by Tom Schacher of Switzerland, a member of the Confined Masonry Network (Schacher 2009). A sponsored project from Risk Management Solutions (RMS) and EERI led to the development of international guidelines on the design of low-rise confined masonry buildings (Meli et al. 2011). The Buildings and Materials Technology Promotion Council (BMTPC) in India funded a project at IIT Kanpur to popularize the use of confined masonry. The Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar (IITGN) together with IIT Kanpur and BMTPC organized an International Workshop on Confined Masonry in Ahmedabad on April 17–18, 2011. Around 15 invitees from Canada, USA, New Zealand, Peru, and India participated in the deliberations. In February 2014 another small workshop with about twenty people was held on the temporary campus of IITGN, particularly discussing the new campus and following up on earlier strategies to introduce the technology. That workshop included a field visit to the new campus of IITGN where three-storey faculty and staff housing (for about 270 families) and four-storey student hostels (for about 1200 students) were being constructed in confined masonry (Jain et al. 2014). This effort has not only resulted in buildings that should be safer in future earthquakes, but also in a fair amount of cost savings.
About the same time as the new campus construction, a parallel initiative to introduce confined masonry as a technology to masons and home owners throughout rural Gujarat was developed by the Government of Gujarat, with technical support from prominent Indian structural engineers. This initiative is discussed in more detail at the end of this section.
8.2 Confined masonry
As a result, good seismic performance can be achieved with low-rise confined masonry without input by qualified engineers, provided that the quality of construction is maintained. Furthermore, confined masonry construction essentially combines two construction typologies, namely, masonry and reinforced concrete, which are prevalent in Indian construction practice. Therefore, workmanship is not expected to be a problem, as construction workers are familiar with the building materials. This is expected to facilitate acceptability in the Indian setting, provided that workers are given training at the initial stage.
8.3 IIT Gandhinagar campus
8.3.1 The project
IIT Gandhinagar (IITGN) is one of the eight new IITs that were established in the academic year 2008–2009. The Institute has been housed temporarily on the premises of the Vishwakarma Government Engineering College in Ahmedabad. In July 2012 the Government of Gujarat gave a piece of land measuring about 161 Hectares (399 Acres) at the Palaj village (Gandhinagar District) to set up the IITGN permanent campus. The site is located in seismic Zone III as per the Indian seismic code (IS 1893 2002), implying a shaking intensity of VII on MSK Scale. For zone III, the Indian code provides peak ground accelerations of 0.16 g at the Maximum Considered Earthquake (MCE) level, and 0.08 g at the Design Basis Earthquake (DBE) level. Therefore, design of the new IITGN campus required attention to seismic considerations.
In Phase I of campus construction, the site will be a fully residential campus for 2400 students and associated faculty and staff. Eventually, the campus will host about 6000 students. In the first instance (Phase 1A), academic buildings, student hostels, faculty and staff residences, and related infrastructure for 1200 students are being constructed. This includes about 45,200 m2 of plinth area for academic buildings consisting of three- and four-storey RC frame buildings to house the laboratories, classrooms and offices. Three different architectural firms have been engaged to provide comprehensive architectural services for the project. The construction work has been executed by a project team of the Central Public Works Department (CPWD), a department of the Government of India meant to undertake constructions funded by it (Jain et al. 2014).
To house the faculty and staff, a total of 270 apartments are being constructed with a total plinth area of 49,300 m2. These are grouped in 30 three-storey blocks. Between the blocks are playgrounds, community space and gardens. Housing plans are of three types, namely Type-I (plinth area 108 m2), Type-II (156 m2) and Type-III (256 m2).
The student hostels and apartments were ideal candidates for the adoption of the confined masonry technology. The rooms are of small size (unlike an auditorium or classroom), with a sufficiently high wall density. It is unlikely that these buildings will be modified in the future for a different usage by shifting the wall locations. And, the number of storeys is only 3–4. Preliminary indications are that there may be a saving of 10–15 % on the overall cost through the adoption of the confined masonry construction technology over more traditional RC frame construction.
A monograph on this project (Jain et al. 2015) provides details on design of the confined masonry buildings, materials used, and construction of foundations, walls, beams, columns and slabs.
8.3.2 Structural design
Recommended design parameters based on test results and considering partial safety factors per IS 1905 (Rai 2013)
Brick masonry type
Prism compressive strength, fm (MPa)
Basic compressive strength (MPa)
Elastic modulus, Em (MPa)
Shear strength, vm (MPa)
Tensile strength, fm (MPa)
Clay bricks and 1:1:6 mortar
Minimum of the following: (a) 0.5 MPa, (b) 0.1 + 0.35 σ (c) 0.125 √fm where σ is overburden pressure due to dead loads
Clay bricks and 1:4 mortar
Fly ash bricks (Set#1) and 1:1:6 mortar
Fly ash bricks (Set#1) and 1:4 mortar
Fly ash bricks (Set#2) and 1:1:6 mortar
Fly ash bricks (Set#2) and 1:4 mortar
The lateral load was assumed to be transferred through a set of selected walls and predominantly in shear mode. These walls were well confined by vertical and lateral ties. The EERI guidelines recommend a minimum wall density (the ratio of the wall area in one horizontal plan direction to the floor area of the building) depending on type of masonry units (bricks, blocks, etc.), seismicity and soil conditions. For this project, bricks were considered as solid clay brick, seismicity was assumed as moderate and soil was of a compacted granular type. For this combination, the EERI guidelines recommend a minimum wall density of 1 and 2 % for single- and two-storey buildings, respectively. In line with that, the minimum wall density was selected as 1 % per storey. For example, 3 % wall density was considered for the three-storey apartment buildings and 4 % wall density for the four-storey hostel buildings. When determining the wall density, only well-confined walls were considered. A number of walls with a small effective length or a large opening were ignored in the wall density calculations, and therefore were not provided with RC tie-columns.
The base shear associated with a building was calculated per IS 1893 (2002). The importance factor was chosen as 1.0 and the response reduction factor was considered as 2.5. The average shear stress at the ground storey wall was calculated by dividing the base shear by the wall area considered in the wall density calculation. An amplification of 15 % due to torsional effects was also accounted for. The resulting shear stress was compared with the allowable shear stress reported in Table 6. The base shear shared by each confined wall was then distributed vertically per IS 1893 (2002) and the overturning moment at the base was calculated. This overturning moment was assumed to be taken by the tie-columns through axial forces, and the area of concrete was ignored while estimating the axial force capacity of the tie-columns.
Special confining reinforcement was provided at the top and bottom of the vertical ties for one-quarter the storey height. These regions are more prone to shear failure. Minimum shear reinforcement was provided at the middle half of a vertical tie. Similar shear reinforcement was provided in horizontal ties also. The joints of horizontal and tie-columns were not detailed for moment transfer. A lintel band was provided continuously throughout the building. No band was provided at the sill level; instead soffits and jambs of granite stone slab (width 250/600 mm and thickness 18 mm) were provided all around window openings (Jain et al. 2014). Detailing of the joints between tie-beams and tie-columns was simpler than in RC frame construction since these joints do not need to be detailed for moment transfer. Masonry walls did not have any horizontal reinforcement, with the exception of RC lintel bands provided continuously along the wall length above openings (doors and windows). Although the provision of a RC lintel band is not common in confined masonry buildings in countries where this technology has been practised, the team decided to provide lintel bands to comply with the provisions of Indian seismic design standard IS 4326, for load bearing masonry buildings located in Zone III of India.
Considering that this is the first reported large-scale systematic application of confined masonry in India, it is no surprise that the project team faced a number of design challenges. First of all, the architectural and structural team was not familiar with the features of confined masonry buildings in terms of layout and planning. There was a considerable debate whether RC tie-columns require isolated (spread) footings similar to columns in RC frame construction, or if it would be adequate to start the tie-columns at the RC plinth band level (with the provision of adequate anchorage for longitudinal reinforcement). The latter alternative was pursued to expedite the construction process and minimize foundation costs (Jain et al. 2014). For that reason, the RC plinth band (with 400 mm depth) was more robust than in conventional masonry construction practice. Another design challenge was related to areas around staircases that did not meet the wall density requirements. Therefore, these areas were treated as RC frame systems and were isolated from the adjacent confined masonry construction through expansion joints (seismic gaps). Seismic gaps were also used within the buildings with a complex plan shape to create simple rectangular segments in order to minimize torsional effects.
8.3.3 Bricks for construction
8.3.4 Construction challenges
An interesting issue came up with respect to contract management. The contracts are based on “item rate basis” where the contractor gets paid for the actual volume of work at a pre-decided rate of payment. The Central Public Works Department (CPWD) has detailed specifications on measurements for different items of work. Since confined masonry was not a recognized construction practice in the country at the time of the project, the CPWD specifications did not address the issues that arose in confined masonry. Therefore, a simplistic approach was taken where the potential bidders of the contract were made aware of what could be involved in confined masonry and what additional costs could arise which they needed to build into their bids. They were given details on the extra masonry work involved as well as the necessary formwork, possibilities for delays with the brickwork, construction of tie columns, etc.
8.4 Introducing confined masonry in rural Gujarat
Both of the projects described here are expected to have far-reaching impacts on the construction industry in the country. Hopefully the new campus of IITGN will be seen as a showcase project for a robust and strong construction technology that will be not only safe against earthquakes but also economical. CPWD is a major government construction agency and this is their first major project using confined masonry. It is hoped that their specifications will be modified in due course to include this as an accepted building typology in India. The construction in rural Gujarat will hopefully be seen as a viable alternative to current construction practices in India in view of its simplicity and its seismic performance. It does not require significant engineering inputs and should be ideal for residential apartments of small and moderate size up to 3–4 storeys.
9 The problem
Further, in the years ahead, India will have a construction boom in housing and infrastructure that is of a staggering magnitude. With a substantial proportion of our population not having proper housing currently, and with the expected future growth in our population, the country will undertake a huge amount of construction for housing, schools, hospitals, bridges and other infrastructure. Given current construction practices and the lack of an adequate regulatory framework to manage such construction, the seismic risk in the country is growing rapidly.
If India is to achieve its aspirations of rapid growth and improvement in the lives of its people, it must address the problem of seismic risk sooner rather than later. It is not a problem that can be resolved in a few years through the passage of a law or through a stand–alone short–term initiative. It requires sustained attention and tremendous effort on multiple fronts by a diverse set of stakeholders over decades.
To understand this problem, let us break it into several parts:
9.1 Licensing of engineers
Currently in India there is no formal system of competence-based licensing of structural engineers (Jain 2002). Some municipalities may require a minimum level of engineering education from the engineer-of-record, even though a degree does not necessarily ensure competence. In essence, anyone with an engineering degree can practice as a professional engineer and issue construction drawings. In the absence of competence-based licensing of engineers, there are few options for ensuring the competence of a structural designer engaged in a project. There are no requirements for continuing education and there are limited opportunities for a typical engineer to remain up-to-date with technical subjects. Professional licensing serves several purposes: (a) ensuring competence of professionals, (b) enhancing quality and accountability of professionals since the council can withdraw the licence to practise in case of misconduct or incompetence, and (c) increasing the mobility of professionals from one jurisdiction to another.
Unlike many other engineering endeavours, in the case of structural engineering success is not an indication of competence, but failure does indicate incompetence. If an engineering team is able to successfully launch a mission to the moon, their success is a clear endorsement of the team’s competence. On the other hand, if a team of architects and engineers is responsible for the design and construction of a building that does not collapse, it does not imply their competence. However, if the building shows structural distress, it is an indication that the team failed to do the job competently.
Further, there are no opportunities to test the structure before its usage. If one were to buy a cell phone that does not work, one could return it to the store. In the case of an apartment, the person living in it can only hope that it has been built to be safe against earthquake, fire and other hazards. Hence, there is a far greater need in the construction industry to ensure the competence of professionals before allowing them to practise independently. Civil engineers have often not been successful in conveying to policy makers in India that licensing is a particularly critical matter for civil engineering (and to some extent electrical and mechanical engineering) as it concerns the safety of the built environment, and that the issue of licensing need not be seen through the same lens for all branches of engineering. Appendix describes the salient features of licensing of engineers in California to give some context on this issue.
India has a licensing system for a number of other professions. The Council of Architecture (CoA) and the Medical Council of India (MCI) ensure that the colleges meet certain standards, and follow certain requirements in their curricula. This forms the basis for these Councils to provide a license to graduates of such colleges. The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) does not oversee curricula in the colleges, but conducts a rigorous written examination to award a license to practice as a Chartered Accountant. Regardless of whether a license is based on the intervention at the level of college education (e.g., MCI and CoA) or based on a competence-based examination (e.g., ICAI), there is the opportunity to enforce professional standards since these councils can withdraw the license to practise in the case of malpractice.
In 2002, a number of professional organizations and institutions of engineers came together to form the Engineering Council of India (ECI). ECI took up the discussions on licensing of engineers, but those discussions have not been successful to date.
In 2006, the Government of Gujarat passed the Gujarat Professional Civil Engineers Act for the creation of the Gujarat Council of Professional Civil Engineers to provide for the registration of professional civil engineers, based on an examination. The Act provided that only a professional civil engineer registered by the Council could certify buildings with more than 140 m2 of plinth area, buildings more than ground plus first storey, or buildings other than load bearing type masonry structures. The Council was formed in 2010 but no significant progress has been made to date towards the implementation of the intent of the Act.
9.2 Professional competence
In the absence of competence-based licensing, without adequate supervision by competent experienced engineers, and with no additional layers of checking the drawings, an engineering graduate may often design and sign drawings that have fatal errors. The computer tools available for analysis and design of structures have compounded the problem further. Many engineers tend to take the computer program as the ultimate engineer and either do not have the time or the capability to ensure that the design and details coming out of a computer analysis make sense.
Cutting corners on the part of contractors, engineers and architects can contribute to the collapse of a building even under gravity loads, which happens in India from time to time. In one such recent event in Chennai in July 2014, a building under construction collapsed, killing 52 people. The chief minister of the state was quoted as saying, “Although the building that collapsed on Saturday had proper approval, it appears the building did not adhere to the approved plan and it suffered from structural defects” (Stalin 2014). Six people were arrested, including the building’s owners, architects and structural engineers.
9.3 Professional associations
Association of Consulting Civil Engineers (India)
Consulting Engineers Association of India
Indian Society of Structural Engineers
Indian Association of Structural Engineers
Indian Institution of Bridge Engineers
Indian National Group of IABSE (International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering)
Indian Roads Congress
Indian Buildings Congress
Indian Concrete Institute
Indian Geotechnical Society
Indian Society of Earthquake Technology
Institution of Engineers (India)
The problem with having so many associations is that they tend to dilute each other and there is no single coherent voice of the profession. With some of these associations competing against each other for programmes, events and resources, none is able to effectively lead the effort for “professionalizing” engineering and/or the construction process more broadly.
It is interesting to note that the Structural Engineers Forum of India (SEFI), which grew organically out of the e-conferences described earlier, has over 18,000 members who have registered to use its online forum, indicating at least some interest in having a place where issues affecting the profession can be discussed. In some countries, professional associations provide testimony to government bodies and help craft legislation and are seen as the voice of the materials providers (masonry, cement) as well as the voice of the construction professions (architecture, engineers, building inspection, masons, etc.). India needs associations that can play such a strong role consistently and our engineering leaders need to give priority to developing such associations.
9.4 Building code enforcement
In cities and towns, the municipal authorities regulate building construction while there is no regulation for buildings in the rural areas. As urbanization proceeds and rural areas on the outskirts of cities are incorporated within the cities, the rural buildings constructed without regulation become part of the city. Different cities have different requirements for the issuance of building permits and typically require a certificate from an engineer and/or an architect that the building complies with all the codes and is structurally safe. Not many municipalities require even submission of structural drawings, and some may ask that a building of a certain size be proof checked and certified by another engineer. To the best of the knowledge of the author, no city/town in India has a system of getting the structural drawings reviewed internally even randomly. As a result, the safety certificates issued by the engineers/architects “are easy to procure, sometimes on payment of small money, and need not have any correlation with how a building is built” (Jain 2005). It is not uncommon in India for a building to be designed by one set of architects and engineers, and to have another set of architects and engineers sign the drawings/certificates for the purpose of the municipal approvals; the rationale is that the professionals doing the actual work on design find it onerous to do the paper work with the municipality and find it easy to engage someone who is willing to do so at a very nominal cost.
Municipalities in India do have a system of checking the building for fire safety and a building may be denied an occupancy permit if the Fire Department finds that the building does not comply with the fire code. Unfortunately, municipalities do not have a similar system for checking for structural safety for a variety of reasons: (a) the need for enforcement of structural safety has not always been emphasized by professionals to the administrators, (b) there is concern that such enforcement will cause corruption rather than solve the problem of structural safety, and (c) the engineering staffs associated with municipalities lack a structural engineering background and temperament since most often they handle problems of drainage, water supply and unauthorized constructions. Engineers in the building department of a municipality may look at a building’s drawings for conformance with issues such as open space requirements and floor area ratio, rather than structural safety. In fact, a large percentage of municipal engineers may be diploma holders (3 years of engineering education after class 10) as opposed to degree holders (4 years of engineering education after class 12).
When municipal authorities seek safety certificates from professionals but as a policy do not verify the design even with random checks, it makes such certificates worthless. One can imagine the consequences if the income tax department were to say that all citizens should pay taxes owed to the government and just attach a certificate from an accountant that this has been done, and that the department as a policy will not examine whether anyone actually paid the taxes.
In many important projects, a client may require the structural drawings to be reviewed and proof checked by another firm; this is effective sometimes but not always. The author is aware of situations where substantial structural distress happened to major structures notwithstanding such peer review. In some cases, the client may require peer review or proof checking by a university professor and this too has a mixed success rate, depending on the quality of attention that the professor concerned gives to the project.
Even when the drawings for the project have been prepared with competence, there is no system at the municipality level to ensure that the same is being faithfully implemented at the site. Correct implementation at the site must be ensured not only by the construction agency and the owner but also by the municipalities through periodic site inspections.
The Nepal Society for Earthquake Technology (NSET), with support from the USAID/OFDA, is currently providing technical support to cities across Nepal to incorporate the building code into the building permit process (NSET 2014). It seems that several municipalities in Nepal have started the process for implementation, and allocated budget for the same. It is reported that Siddharathanagar and Butwal municipalities in Nepal have established separate earthquake safety units to check building code compliance. Indian cities too must undertake this, and huge progress will be made on the road to seismic safety the day our municipalities start effectively checking structural designs. The guidelines prepared by the National Disaster Management Authority for managing earthquakes (NDMA 2007) provide for enforcement of codes in addition to many other elements and it is now time to implement the same.
9.5 Construction typologies
Despite its best efforts, the country will continue to see construction of a large number of housing units without adequate and competent engineering inputs. In this scenario, there is an urgency to develop, test and propagate construction typologies that are inherently safer. If a common man can build a safe home with locally available construction materials and skills, it will solve a huge problem of unsafe constructions in the informal sector. In fact, such typologies are needed not only for the informal sector, as even the formal sector can benefit from these.
Most urban construction in India consists of either masonry load-bearing buildings of up to three or four storeys, or reinforced concrete frame buildings with masonry infills as walls. Their safety can be significantly enhanced by (a) adopting confined masonry construction in the case of masonry load-bearing constructions (Sect. 8), and (b) providing reinforced concrete shear walls in the case of reinforced concrete frame buildings. However, there could be numerous other solutions. As discussed in Sect. 3, the Assam-type housing that emerged as a result of the 1897 Assam earthquake, and the Quetta bond that emerged during the reconstruction after the 1935 earthquake in Quetta both provide excellent resistance to earthquakes and do not require serious engineering efforts.
9.6 Seismic retrofitting of existing buildings
The issue of retrofitting of existing buildings and infrastructure comes up after every disastrous earthquake. In some countries, with systems already in place to ensure that new constructions are safe and code-complaint, retrofitting options are certainly appropriate to consider. In a country like India, however, without a system to ensure the safety of new buildings, retrofitting of existing buildings is not a priority over new buildings. It is not often appreciated that the urgency and highest priority (and resources) must go towards ensuring that no new constructions take place that are unsafe. Let us assume the average life of a building as 50 years, that the building stock in India will grow at 2 % per annum, and that from today onwards no unsafe building will be constructed. In such a scenario, 20 years from now, more than two-thirds of the building stock will be safe and a large part of the problem will be solved even without retrofitting.
Retrofitting can be expensive Depending on the state of an existing building and the level to which it is planned to be retrofitted, the cost of retrofitting may range from 10 % to 50 % of the cost of a similar new facility (e.g., Spence 2004). It is far cheaper, more effective and simpler to include seismic features in the original construction than to do subsequent retrofitting.
It requires considerable expertise and technology for retrofitting It may be relatively straightforward to retrofit a simple and ordinary masonry building against collapse. However, considerable technical (both design and construction) know-how may be needed to retrofit complex structures. For instance, the Department of Transportation in California in the U.S. (Caltrans), had to undertake years of research while executing its retrofitting programme, and it spent about 1 % of its budget on research for retrofitting.
Retrofitting is a long-haul process In view of the costs and efforts required, a sensible retrofitting programme will need a timetable running into decades depending on the size of the inventory of unsafe constructions and the resources available for retrofitting. As an example, Caltrans has taken about 35 years to seismically retrofit its bridges at a cost of over $10 billion.
Important public buildings need priority for retrofitting In the 2005 Kashmir earthquake, about 19,000 children died in collapsed school buildings (EERI 2006). Since we expect our children to go to school, we must then ensure that the schools are safe. A retrofitting policy and initiative is needed for schools, hospitals and other important public buildings.
A sensible prioritization system is needed Since any retrofitting programme will be a long-term project, a prioritization scheme must be developed carefully so as to maximize safety with the amount spent. The scheme should consider seismic hazard at the site, vulnerability and residual life of the building, cost and ease of retrofitting, consequences of failure, etc.
Just as in the case of developing new seismic codes and updating existing codes, considerable work is needed to develop consensus documents on the seismic assessment of existing buildings, prioritization schemes for undertaking retrofitting, and methodologies (with specifications) for seismic retrofitting. In addition, a vigorous research programme is needed focused on existing building typologies in India.
9.7 Sustained training and education
There have been several good initiatives for awareness building, training and education in earthquake engineering. Unfortunately many of these have been one-off, funded for just a few years and they have not been sustained. One example is the National Programme for Earthquake Engineering Education; when initially conceived it was expected to run for 10–20 years but ended up receiving funding for only four. There are some activities related to earthquake engineering at most of the Indian Institutes of Technology, but these are not well coordinated. Individual states have some natural hazards awareness building programmes, but information on these is difficult to obtain. Training for masons also exist, but again is typically organized by individual NGOs and not part of an institutionalized culture of safe building practices. There is little focus on raising awareness generally, among all those involved in the building industry, about the risks posed by unsafe building practices, from no inspection to poor design, to cutting corners with materials, or to using unsafe materials and technologies. There is a clear need for massive and continued (for 10–20 years) programmes to provide training and education on safer constructions to different stakeholders at various levels.
9.8 Research and development
The development of new building typologies and technologies appropriate for Indian conditions and that are inherently good for resisting earthquake shaking. One requirement for such technologies to be effective is that they must not require significant sophistication in design and construction supervision.
Seismic retrofitting technologies appropriate for the existing stock of buildings and infrastructure (e.g. Kaushik et al. 2009).
Large-scale and full-scale verification tests on the technologies so developed; this will require substantial investments in our laboratories.
Research on design issues and on development of codes (and supporting explanatory handbooks) that are appropriate for Indian construction practices and typologies; for instance, reinforced concrete frame buildings with masonry infills (e.g., Kaushik et al. 2006).
Research on seismic design of bridges. Bridges in the deep alluvium of the Indo-Gangetic Plains are most often supported on large ‘well foundations’ (one form of caisson foundations) that are not common outside the Indian subcontinent (e.g., Mondal et al. 2012).
Geotechnical earthquake engineering problems such as site effects.
Research on the seismic hazard, including paleoseismic studies, ground motion characteristics, attenuation relations (e.g., Jain et al. 2000), and development of modern zone maps, etc.
Risk scenario development: for instance, what is the likely loss scenario for Delhi (or Kolkata or Guwahati) if ground shaking of 10 % probability in 50 years were to occur (e.g., Arya 1992; Sinha and Adarsh 1999).
In order to take up these and other similar research problems, we need to build considerable research infrastructure (e.g., laboratories including shake tables, geotechnical centrifuges, pseudo dynamic test facilities, etc.) and create a strong research culture in our universities. Far too few earthquake engineering articles appear from India in the scholarly journals presently. A comprehensive National Initiative on Research and Development in Earthquake Engineering is needed for the next 20–30 years (Jain 2007). Finally, as we scale up our research, a focused effort must be made for technology transfer to the profession; for this, professionals too must be engaged in developing and managing the research agenda.
9.9 A lack of champions
Countries with a strong emphasis on earthquake risk reduction usually have multiple champions for seismic safety; ranging from a mother concerned about children in an unsafe school to an elected official with a clear understanding of the enormous risk posed by a major earthquake in his or her constituency. India is a vast country, with a huge risk, and yet we have very few such champions for seismic safety. This may be because potential activists perceive greater risks from other day-to-day threats facing the country, or because there is a lack of understanding of how much risk India faces in a future seismic event, particularly a possible mega-earthquake in the Himalaya. When it is only earthquake engineering experts and academics who champion the cause of seismic safety it not only diverts their attention from core academics but also makes for bad optics; they are seen as beneficiaries of seismic safety programmes (e.g., better funding) and with a vested interest.
9.10 Windows of opportunity
Long term human response to earthquakes (Keys 1988)
1 min–1 week
Rescue and survival
1 week–1 month
Short term repairs
Allocation of blame–builders, designers, officials etc.
1 month–1 year
Long term repairs Action for higher standards
1 year–10 years
10 years to the next time
Reluctance to meet costs of seismic provisions, research etc.
Increasing non-compliance with regulations
The next time
Repeat stages 1–7
In some cases, the country has been able to leverage opportunities provided by earthquake disasters and in many instances it has not been able to. When preparatory work has been done ahead of time and a clear road map developed apriori, the efforts for implementation within the time window of opportunity have been successful, e.g., NPEEE. On the other hand, if discussions on developing the action plan itself start after the disaster, the attention and the urgency are lost by the time deliberations are over. Hence, champions of safety need to be strategic in their efforts for seismic risk reduction (e.g. Comartin et al. 2004), and use the peacetime to develop strategies and action plans.
With the above view towards leveraging the opportunity a disaster may provide, and offer consistent advice to decision makers who otherwise may receive advice, even conflicting, from many “experts” after a disaster, “Guiding Principles and Elements for Effective Seismic Safety Programs” was developed by a group of international experts. These guidelines have been endorsed by the International Association for Earthquake Engineering (IAEE) and the World Seismic Safety Initiative (WSSI). This document owes its origins to an Ad Hoc Experts’ Group (32 experts from around the world) on Earthquake Safety in Schools that met in Paris in February 2004 under the aegis of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and GeoHazards International (GHI) and developed the “Guiding principles for mandatory national school seismic safety programmes” (OECD 2004). These guidelines were further developed and expanded in scope to address not just school safety, but seismic safety at a societal level by a smaller group of experts who met in Beijing, China in February 2006. The resulting Guiding Principles and Elements are meant to be standards for a national seismic safety program with applicability across nations, and cover all issues ranging from awareness and capacity-building, to licensing of professionals and enforcement.
9.11 Earthquake problem versus building problem
The author believes that in a country like India, the solution to the seismic safety problem has been delayed because it is often projected as an ‘earthquake problem’ rather than as a ‘building problem’. A building must provide safety to its occupants against so many hazards, including the earthquake hazard. However, often we place too much emphasis on ‘earthquake engineering’ and too little on ‘building engineering’.
Earthquake engineering has emerged in the last several decades as a strong discipline and has made huge progress. However, in many developing countries, including in India, it has not been integrated into civil engineering and continues to be seen as a super specialty. There is a far better chance of routine structures being earthquake-resistant if earthquake safety is not seen as something additional over and above routine engineering, but becomes an integrated element in routine engineering practice. For instance, when one constructs a house, it is expected that the roof will not leak during the rainy season and the design and the construction engineers concern themselves with ensuring this; no special class of ‘rain engineers’ need to be called upon to ensure the building does not leak. In a similar way it is sometimes counter-productive to have too much emphasis on ‘earthquake engineering’ and make it stand apart, instead of having it integrated within civil/structural/geotechnical engineering in a seamless manner.
At times, after disastrous earthquakes, a significant focus has been placed on seismic instrumentation and seismic microzonation in the belief that these are critical for achieving seismic safety, and the opportunities provided by the disaster to push for safer construction have been lost. Policy makers need to be sensitized to the fact that no amount of zonation, microzonation or instrumentation can help until the building constructions improve.
Finally, one cannot achieve earthquake safety if the focus on overall quality (for instance, durability) and safety (for instance, construction safety, safety against fire, against structural distress) in the construction industry is missing. Therefore, instead of talking about ‘earthquake engineering,’ we must push for improvements in the entire chain of the construction industry. Any interventions in earthquake safety must go together with interventions towards better constructions.
Error of intention: Someone intends not to follow the correct practice for whatever reasons (for instance, to save costs by using less building materials), or someone undertakes execution of the project even when one knows that one is not competent to do so.
Error of concept: Due to insufficient knowledge, someone unintentionally does not follow the correct practice (for instance, poor concepts of engineering mechanics), and in many cases the person does not know that he does not know (for instance, a design engineer may not know about some aspects of the engineering problem).
Error of execution: Despite best intentions, errors may happen in execution at any stage of design and construction.
To ensure that the construction industry will be, by and large, free of these errors, a fairly sophisticated system for managing the construction delivery is needed and there are no short-cuts to achieve this.
10 Concluding remarks
The late Charles Richter wrote (1958), “It is easy to underestimate India, geographically and otherwise.” India offers tremendous diversity in all aspects: its geography, its geology, its people, its culture, its food, its construction typologies, its engineering capabilities, and its governance system. Almost anything can be said about India and it will be true but the exact opposite of the same statement will also be true. Western visitors, new to India, can be easily confounded by the numerous contradictions in daily life and they may find it not-so-easy to appreciate that almost anything in India can easily fall in between black and white into numerous shades of grey. That so many norms and expectations in the society are implicit, rather than explicit, can be difficult to comprehend for an outsider.
On one extreme, Indian engineers have successfully executed great projects and continue to do so. This ranges from construction of bridges and dams in the most challenging geological and geotechnical settings, sending a highly acclaimed mission to Mars at an extremely low cost, to indigenous design and construction of a 500MWe Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) at Kalpakkam that is expected to be commissioned shortly. And, on the other extreme it is not uncommon to see a poorly designed reinforced concrete building under construction with the names of architectural and structural firms of long standing in title blocks of the “good for construction” drawings. Some great work has been done in the country in seismic reconstruction and rehabilitation in recent years on one hand, and on the other hand we continue to build many unsafe buildings every day, adding to our seismic risk.
The problem of unsafe constructions, at times even in the formal sector under the supervision of architects and engineers, is a rather sophisticated problem that India must solve. It will require a multidisciplinary approach involving engineering, social, political and economic interventions. Research articles, reports, microzonation maps, codes are all meant to improve what gets built on the ground, but do not make any difference if the actual improvement in construction does not take place. Hence, a narrow view of earthquake safety from an ‘earthquake’ viewpoint cannot be effective and the focus must shift from ‘earthquake engineering’ to ‘good building constructions’.
India anticipates unprecedented growth over the next decade, an opportunity both exciting and daunting. The prospects for growth for all those in the construction process are enormous, yet with the possibility of continuing many of the potentially fatal errors discussed above. Foremost among the unfinished agenda to improve this construction process are: (a) competence-based licensing for engineers in general and structural engineers in particular, (b) enforcement of building codes by the municipal authorities, and (c) development and propagation of building typologies that are inherently earthquake-resistant. The emphasis, with particular urgency, should be on new construction of all kinds, from the millions of housing for the masses that the central government has identified as a priority, to the expensive apartment buildings for the affluent.
Clearly, India has come a long way on the road to earthquake safety. And yet, much remains to be done before this journey is completed. Creating a system and culture for building safe houses in 21st century India is something not only possible but an absolute necessity. This is the least that the more than one billion people of India expect from professionals and others associated with the construction industry. Providing such safe housing is both our challenge and our obligation.
Prof CVR Murty, at that time teaching in IIT Delhi, was to later join IIT Kanpur and work closely with the author for more than a decade.
Establishing an IIT in the state of Assam was one of the commitments made by the Government of India in the Assam Accord, signed on August 15, 1985, under the Prime Ministership of Rajiv Gandhi. The Foundation Stone of the Institute was laid on July 4, 1992, by the then Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao. The 3-day course was held soon after this and long before the new Institute admitted its first batch of students in July 1995.
In order to give perspective to the reader, value in euros has been provided here (and in the rest of the paper) based on the contemporary value of euro.
Based on the author’s visit to the office of California Board of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors in Sacramento, CA, USA in 2003.
Most of the work that the author did at IIT Kanpur and mentioned in this paper was possible only because of a close and continuing collaboration with two colleagues: C. V. R. Murty and D. C. Rai. Further, Alpa Sheth collaborated in the capacity-building work after the 2001 earthquake, particularly that related to Gujarat. Many colleagues, too numerous to name, within and outside India, actively collaborated in many ways over the years. A large number of graduate students and project staff also had strong participation in all these activities. The author is most grateful to them all. Timely completion of this manuscript would not have been possible without the extraordinary help from Marjorie Greene and Keya Mitra, and this is deeply appreciated. Finally, the author acknowledges financial support from the Ministry of Human Resource Development and other sponsors for the numerous research and capacity-building activities that he has undertaken over the last three decades.
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