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New study delays reconstruction of earthquake ravaged Bhuj


A MASTERPLAN to rebuild the devastated centre of earthquake hit Indian city Bhuj has been delayed by six months.

Indian consultant Environmental Planning Collaborative (EPC) was told its five month study to produce a masterplan for the city in Gujurat- accepted by the Gujurat urban development corporation - was not detailed enough. It has now been asked to produce a more detailed plan for the 100ha labyrinth of streets in the centre known as the 'walled city', where some 77% of houses was razed by the earthquake in January 2001 which measured 6.9 on the Richter scale.

Frustrated residents will have to wait until at least June before work can start on rebuilding.

The extra detail will give the location of individual land plots, roads and open spaces.

But EPC has only a 30 year old database to establish where each plot was located. EPC team leader of the Bhuj plan, Bharati Ghodke said it could take her team months to build up a new database before it could start work on the detailed reconstruction plan.

'A plan for the walled city should have been done earlier, ' said Ghodke. 'If it had been, it would have saved a lot of time and frustration for these people, ' she added.

Some residents are reported to have started rebuilding their homes in the walled city without waiting for official permission, but Bhuj district development officer Rajeev Topno said that houses rebuilt without permission would be demolished.

Tougher regs to limit future damage

NEW HOUSING in Gujarat is to have a three storey height restriction to limit casualties in future earthquakes, local officials confirmed 'Soft storey' collapses which resulted from the failure of poorly reinforced concrete columns in multi-storey buildings increased the toll of last year's earthquake.

Final figures show that more than 13,000 people were killed and 167,000 injured.

The height limit will form part of tougher building and town planning regulations for the state set to be passed as law in May.

An estimated 5,000 engineers in the region will be trained in seismic engineering techniques so they can implement the new regulations.

So far progress in rebuilding an estimated 1.2M homes in the worst damaged areas has been slow.

Latest Gujarat State Disaster Management Agency (GSDMA) figures show that in Kutch district , a target of 34,000 houses for the first year had reached only 16,000.

Repair figures make better reading. Of 279,000 houses damaged in Kutch, 164,000 had been repaired by the end of the year, from a target of 182,000.

A lack of engineers and skilled labourers has plagued the reconstruction effort, said GSDMA chief executive V Thiruppugazh.

The GSDMA has now recruited 2,700 engineers to check structural drawings of new homes and retrofits.

Major Indian consultants Stup, Gherzi Eastern and National Council for Cement and Building Materials have been appointed to supervise and quality audit the glut of reconstruction works coming on stream.

In the longer term the GSDMA will up capacity to respond to disasters like cyclones, droughts, chemical and nuclear attacks as well as earthquakes.

Some 88 new accelerographs, measuring ground acceleration for early prediction of earthquakes, will also be installed. Five emergency response centres costing $260M will be built in Ahmedebad, Surat, Rajkot, Bhuj and Baroda.

The GSDMA's long term disaster management plan is expected to be published next month. UK consultant Babtie and the Cranfield Institute of Disaster Management are providing technical assistance.

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