Rising from the rubble

Rising from the rubble A year down the road, the quake-ravaged Gujarat has undergone more than a cosmetic change. In Ahmedabad, the debris has been cleared. Buildings that collapsed in a roar of brick and mortar are being pieced together again. And makeshift structures have sprung up.

But the scars are yet to heal. To add insult to injury, the state government has let errant builders and civic officials get away scot-free. The authorities are also delaying the finalisation of town planning, pending which the people cannot construct permanent structures. The residents of Kutch are more fortunate. Their lives are limping back to normalcy, courtesy assistance from the administration as well as non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

But the actual credit for the statewide resurrection goes to the people themselves. While they are getting their damaged buildings assessed on their own initiative in the urban areas, the ruralfolk have been even more resourceful in carrying out the rebuilding effort.

Mihir Bhatt, director Disaster Mitigation Institute (DMI), Ahmedabad, says, "The poor among the victims are steadfastly braving the odds. And the government-NGO coordination at multiple levels has increased the effectiveness of the response.' But it has been a long haul, says a volunteer from the Behavioural Science Centre, Ahmedabad, working to set up houses in the Dalit and Koli areas of Rapar and Bachau, where not much aid is said to have reached.

Bhatt opines that the urban areas have been neglected in the present scenario as the focus is on villages. The civic authorities of large towns and cities are slow and cautious in deciding the building laws and changes. This is because the new rules that promote safer building construction are difficult to develop, he avers.

It is felt that certain area-specific laws need to be devised, because what holds true for Ahmedabad may not be valid for some other area of the state. Post-earthquake, the new General Development Control Regulations (GDCR) have been published. They are to be implemented in six major cities and their surrounding areas. Bhuj is a surprising omission from the list.

The new regulations claim to address the problems which surfaced after the earthquake. Yogesh Vani, a structural engineer from Ahmedabad, however, says that those connected with the building industry are disappointed because of the inadequacies of the GDCR. The rules are badly drafted, and there are overlapping responsibilities and yawning gaps in areas where far more attention needed to be paid to bring about quality construction. Above all, the local building industry was not consulted prior to the framing of the norms, he laments.

Architect Surya Kakani says, "In a field where several players are involved, the buck needs to stop somewhere. It is also necessary to create awareness among the common people about the hazards of faulty construction.'

A DMI survey covering six nagar palikas in Kutch, Surendranagar and Patan reveals that even as the town planners dither over giving clearance to building plans, NGOs such as Abhiyan and SEWA have pitched in by helping people construct semi-permanent shelters.

suverchala kashyap vadodara

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