Earthquake Risk of Schools

Issues of enduring significance specific to Nepal and those that affect all Nepalis. Examples are our vulnerability to earthquakes, flooding in the Terais
Bishnu
Posts: 8
Joined: Sun Apr 18, 2010 11:12 am

Earthquake Risk of Schools

Postby Bishnu » Sun Apr 18, 2010 12:54 pm

Since last couples of months, world's seismicity is on spotlight. Even, some went to say – are we now in earthquake season? Science says there is nothing like “Earthquake Season” but apparently half a dozen earthquakes occurred in last 4-5 months hit very hard to the societies, be them in Haiti, Chile, Taiwan, Indonesia or in China. As always, again the hardest hits in these earthquakes are vulnerable group of societies – women and children.

To the particular concern with children, our future, the biggest factors to their vulnerability are schools which are disproportionately weak. The physical damage of school buildings by earthquakes are just a small part of the big loss incurred to the society. The impact ranges from personal life and hardships to national loss. The most critical of all is death and injury of school children and teachers. Unlike other buildings, the collapse of a school building in earthquake can kill hundreds of school children in the matter of a few seconds.

A survey carried out some years ago in Kathmandu shows that 90% of public schools are extremely vulnerable to moderate to large earthquakes. The status of private boarding schools is not better, if not worse. As Kathmandu is waiting for a “Big One” to come, isn’t it a serious agenda to think and act upon urgently to safeguard our next generation- the school children. To learn from the recent past, here is a fact - there are several villages in Kashmir (Pakistan) now without school-going children as the last earthquake in 2005 left no children in their schools. That single earthquake of moderate intensity killed 17,000 school-going children.

Note from the moderator:
Writer is an expert in earthquake, earthquake preparedness, earthquake risk reduction and has worked in many countries of the world in the subject, training people, advising governments.

Attached below is a presentation by the author on earthquake risks and ways of reduction of the same.

Aawartan.org offers its thanks to the author for allowing us to host the material.


[It is our sincere request that you go through the slides attached here before posting responses on this thread.]
Attachments
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kazi
Posts: 978
Joined: Mon Jun 29, 2009 11:55 am

Re: Earthquake Risk of schools

Postby kazi » Sun Apr 18, 2010 8:27 pm

Yes, the impending risks are high and the possible magnitude of disaster is terrible. I am referring not only to the intensity of natural disasters but the following turmoil. We must learn from the chaos after Katrina struck New Orleans. Since prevention is impossible, recovery from damage entails preparation, management and budget. I really hope we are ready for the *big one*.
--
"Mother and motherland are more precious than heaven." But that does not mean we must cling to our mothers. The least I can do for Nepal is to bring awareness among the Nepali people. And this Nepali forum is the platform for me.

kazi
Posts: 978
Joined: Mon Jun 29, 2009 11:55 am

Re: Earthquake Risk of Schools

Postby kazi » Mon Apr 19, 2010 3:21 pm

@Bishnu, your presentation is very informative and interesting. What are the initiatives being taken to manage the impending risk? I know its a long shot, but how soon is the big one going to hit Kathmandu?

I found another interesting link here on disaster management for hospitals.
--
"Mother and motherland are more precious than heaven." But that does not mean we must cling to our mothers. The least I can do for Nepal is to bring awareness among the Nepali people. And this Nepali forum is the platform for me.

Bishnu
Posts: 8
Joined: Sun Apr 18, 2010 11:12 am

Re: Earthquake Risk of Schools

Postby Bishnu » Mon Apr 19, 2010 6:07 pm

@Kazi, Thanks. During the last couple of years, there have been several initiatives of earthquake risk management (ERM), notably in the field of school protection, building code implementation, hospital assessment etc. However, most of them are limited to only demonstration initiatives. In the last 10 years, I think, some 30-40 schools have been retrofitted in and around Kathmandu but we still have thousands of schools to be retrofitted to save lives of millions of children in case earthquake hits during school time. This needs a major policy intervention at formal sector and should embrace capital investment in infrastructure protection. Small initiatives however, are always good but we can't cross the Pacific Ocean by a boat - we need a proper ship for the voyage.

Similar initiatives have been undertaken in hospital preparedness( for example: you referred the document the author is also involved in) but that too is limited only up to the assessment of risk - implementation is still a distant dream. We urgently need huge action(with proportionately huge commitment) to minimize the risk we now know we have. The need for this urgency comes from the fact that big earthquake(s) are already in due in terms of geological processes in Nepal. If history tells anything, Kathmandu has witnessed big earthquakes of magnitude of more than 8.0 every 80 years on an average. And from what historical records we can track, since the 12th century, Kathmandu was hit with 8 such events , the last one happening on 1934 AD (BS 1990). The geological science says there is constant movement of plate subducting into China and thereby accumulating huge energy which gets released very quickly during an earthquake. It is an established fact that the longer we wait, the larger threat gets. Further complicating the situation, a big segment of Himalaya, towards west of Kathmandu has not torn/slipped for many hundreds years now. This tells us how much risk there is that we are living with. However, there are ways to stop the increasing risk, reducing the existing risk and containing the remaining risk. We simply lack an awareness to in adopting these measures.

There are several other issues to be resolved by the country and there are several other priority needs of development. But at the same time, earthquake risk is no less important since it puts our development to a very hard test. Any development that does not pass the earthquake test is not sustainable development. In history, there have been some earthquakes that changed the economical and political landscape of some countries and the hardest hit are the ones that have have marginal economies likes ours. We build our infrastructure with so much of loan and debt and an earthquake crushes them in a matter of seconds. The impact of an earthquake might be such that we can't get back to the state before the earthquake hits us for a long time. A glaring example of this is one Latin American country - Nicaragua. In the late 70's, an earthquake hit the country so bad that it still can't stand up.

On a positive note, there are technologies, there are proven cases that earthquakes do not kill people but only weak buildings. Earthquakes do not destroy well-planned and well designed infrastructures. Even some small investment in mitigation saves big time from the loss. What we need is awareness (- not only in the form of educating ourselves but in terms of motivation for action) and real action, for that matter. Earthquakes do not recognize education but does recognize when risk reduction, preparedness and awareness is put into place.

kazi
Posts: 978
Joined: Mon Jun 29, 2009 11:55 am

Re: Earthquake Risk of Schools

Postby kazi » Tue Apr 20, 2010 11:10 am

I could not agree with you more on this, @Bishnu. Available statistics show that the fear of the big one is very real. and the question is not if, but when. And to be able to predict an earthquake is a big challenge for experts. As a non-expert, I think a big part of disaster management is to be able to take prompt action to minimize loss whenever there is prediction of earthquakes.

But I think the awareness and action that you are suggesting entails significant investment in disaster management and possibly regulating construction laws, etc. I certainly hope the people that you are calling to action do treat this risk with prompt attention because we definitely do not want to end up like Nicaragua.

Even if they did not listen to Al Gore on global warming, I like to think that if you provide compelling reasons and sustainable solutions, they will listen to you. I think you (the experts) need to come up with a plan to show that its more cost effective to regulate constructions and invest in research.
--
"Mother and motherland are more precious than heaven." But that does not mean we must cling to our mothers. The least I can do for Nepal is to bring awareness among the Nepali people. And this Nepali forum is the platform for me.

Bishnu
Posts: 8
Joined: Sun Apr 18, 2010 11:12 am

Re: Earthquake Risk of Schools

Postby Bishnu » Tue Apr 20, 2010 12:34 pm

@ Kazi, Yes, I agree that professionals need to come out with solutions. Though earthquake engineering is relatively younger, there have been significant advancements in last couple of decades in technological front. I would say, there are good technological options to make each type of building and infrastructure to make them earthquake- resistant. However, technology itself is only a tool. Unless and until people at policy and decision-making level acknowledge its need and design framework of action accordingly, the tool is simply useless. I think, professionals and experts are lacking right there - to make case of disaster risk reduction as an agenda of good governance, to reach out planning sector, and to motivate them for actions. It's also simply because of their inherent weakness. They are good at technology, not at advocacy. Actually, earthquake risk management would be in mainstream of national development process only when it becomes business of everyone, including you. I think, Al Gore is not an expert in climate change. He is simply a very effective advocator. We also, in this case, need strong advocacy group to raise the issue and make government and donor agencies listen. The need for compelling reason? There are abundant evidences and cases , take the case of Haiti or the recent one from china where thousands of school children are feared dead from school collapses( see the link).

There is a good example of effectiveness of citizen group’s advocacy for risk reduction in British Columbia (BC), Canada. One female medical doctor, who has two school-going daughters, happened to attend a seminar on earthquakes risk of BC. She went to meet experts to check whether the school her daughters are attending is safe enough. She found it’s not only that school but hundreds of other schools in BC are vulnerable to earthquakes. She then started a campaign with family parents to pressure the government a major investment in strengthening all schools in the state. Yes, she and her family- parent colleagues were successful to make government announce 10 year mega- project of school retrofitting amounting 1.5 billion dollor. Government made a policy decision accepting “Safety of school children could not be comprised in the pretext of economic analysis”. It is in line with the argument that sending children to schools implies that it’s government’s responsibility to provide them safe shelter while they are studying. This is just an example how citizen group should act proactively. Expert groups are always there to support and provide necessary solutions.

I know I am putting you, educated and intellectual people who feel great responsibilities to the society, to take big stake on it. Yes, I think, that’s the most effective way to deal the problem. I am repeating- earthquake risk management comes to realization only when it becomes everybody’s concern.

Bishnu
Posts: 8
Joined: Sun Apr 18, 2010 11:12 am

Re: Earthquake Risk of Schools

Postby Bishnu » Tue Apr 20, 2010 12:50 pm

I noticed the link I mentioned is not actually hyper-linked. Here is the source:
http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/art ... wD9F6TR2O3

kazi
Posts: 978
Joined: Mon Jun 29, 2009 11:55 am

Re: Earthquake Risk of Schools

Postby kazi » Wed Apr 21, 2010 2:07 pm

I am not an expert on earthquakes and I might be overstepping my boundary in engaging in this conversation. Nevertheless, just for the sake of argument, I think that solutions do exist in the form of regulations or improving existing structures. And I believe the experts have done that compellingly well. Another thing that experts have done well is to give realistic examples of the losses possible, which is similar to what Al Gore has done by scaring the wits out of the masses.

Where the experts have failed, I think, is to show the benefits of planning and investing in terms of tangible benefits. In other words, we know the risks, but what are the benefits (or return) on the investment, so to say? That, I think, would be compelling enough for people who need to invest on the solutions. That said, I have to say that I am fully in agreement with your notion of citizen advocacy. We are on the same side on this. I guess we need a leader to take the initiative and inspire others.
--
"Mother and motherland are more precious than heaven." But that does not mean we must cling to our mothers. The least I can do for Nepal is to bring awareness among the Nepali people. And this Nepali forum is the platform for me.

Bishnu
Posts: 8
Joined: Sun Apr 18, 2010 11:12 am

Re: Earthquake Risk of Schools

Postby Bishnu » Thu Apr 22, 2010 12:24 pm

I think my wordings were too harsh asking everyone to come up with the responsibilities. What I wanted is to make a point that let’s everyone share the concern and make it agenda of not only limited expert groups but everyone who will be affected. I agree with @Kazi that let’s ask experts to come up with cost/benefit analysis. Doing so, we are bringing them to the table where things are determined based on not only technology but also based on their values.

Just to touch little bit on the cost/benefit analysis of aseismic measures, there have been political and economic studies on what extent a state can invest towards safety of its citizens. The very basic of building codes or the level of safety implied there is determined based on these studies. In the context of Nepal, the problem lies when we have not yet implemented the building code effectively that was developed 15 years ago. Towards the strengthening of existing buildings and infrastructures, decision of investment are made based on the cost-benefit analysis in terms of Life Quality Index (LQI). Talking roughly, the LQI can be expressed in terms of infrastructure investment cost of saving one life. In OECD countries, this varies from US$4-7 million per person saving life. This is done with economic analysis of investment and its return in terms of saving by non-collapse of structure which otherwise will collapse in an earthquake in its lifetime at the probability of earthquake occurrence. The value, 4-7 mil. Dollor, is approximately per capita net loss from pure economic analysis with no regards of lives saved. Then, this loss is assigned towards value of life saved. In other words, it is a value of a life. Though I disagree with this approach of putting tag in the life which is absolutely priceless, it is an attempt to quantify the price of desired safety.

This author has done similar analysis for the case of Nepal and found that we will end up getting net benefit from the economical analysis. We get the lives saved from mitigation for free. The reasons are: the probability of earthquake occurrence is very high and, more importantly, the level of investment we need to make at low end of safety level is very low compared to that of high end. In simple words, the investment we do to achieve first 50 % of safety is less compared to the investment we need to do to acquire from 80% to 90% safety. The investment vs. safety relation is not linear. Developed country are already at higher safety level and they need to invest more if they want to enhance their safety further while we are at low end at can increase significant safety even we do little.
Coming back to the original point of discussion on how can we contribute towards seismic safety of schools in Nepal, which is waiting big earthquakes to happen, I would like to propose to start with something small and doable. I am wondering whether we, all of us at least in this forum, can do:

a. Think of our own primary and secondary schools we graduated in the village or town- whether they can withstand big tremor? Most likely not, if the building is made of adobe (mud brick), stone block, brick wall. Concrete frame buildings can be more lethal if there is no engineering input. Most of 17,000 children killed in Kashmir earthquake were in stone-block school buildings during the earthquake.

b. Initiate discussions on the potential risk and its consequences among those who are directly or indirectly attached to the school like schoolmates, intellectuals grown in the village/ town and reach out to the local leaders and social champions still active in the field. Local champions can put pressure to local government bodies or NGOs working in the education sector for seismic assessment of school and strengthening, if necessary. Municipalities and District Development Committee (DDC) can forward the proposal to the ministry ( MOLD) which has recently set a policy that any proposal from local bodies for disaster reduction initiative will be given top priority with grant support of 75% of the estimate.

c. Take positive intervention to consider earthquake safety, if we are aware of any initiative to build school, library or community centre in our village/town. The additional cost of incorporating earthquake resistant features in the building is not more than 10% of conventional cost. If we need to strengthen the existing weak building, it may go up to 30-40 %.

d. The major problem would be finding professional engineers who can help assessment and design of earthquake safe schools. District offices of Department of Urban Development and Building Construction (DUDBC) have engineers trained for the seismic design. There have been several trainings to engineers of DUDBCs, DDCs and municipalities in last couple of years. Also, if we know some engineers who can provide help our village schools, let’s take his /her expertise. If we can facilitate to make our school safe and be able to save children from coming earthquakes that would be a good portion of pay-back of social debt we owe to our village.

e. If we have access to people at decision making level of government, or funding agencies, INGO/NGOs etc, why don’t we start talking to them about the issue.

I hope I am not pressing to hard again. If we believe there is risk which should be reduced to minimize the avoidable deaths and if we believe we can do, let’s do.

Let’s discuss.

kazi
Posts: 978
Joined: Mon Jun 29, 2009 11:55 am

Re: Earthquake Risk of Schools

Postby kazi » Fri Apr 23, 2010 8:51 am

@Bishnu, I just got an idea from briefly reading your latest post: why don't we organize an event to inspect the structures for free.. not a whole lot, but just a few that can be done within a few days? I think this sort of event will give exposure to the experts, will give a voice and publicity to your noble initiative and will benefit the owners of the structures. I can see a huge market for your expertise. I'm excited.
--
"Mother and motherland are more precious than heaven." But that does not mean we must cling to our mothers. The least I can do for Nepal is to bring awareness among the Nepali people. And this Nepali forum is the platform for me.


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