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Calamity count for Calcutta
- IIT signals department in disaster management & mitigation

A meteorologist from Delhi and a professor of geophysics at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, have warned that Calcutta should be prepared to face natural calamities, like earthquakes and severe storms, and have a foolproof disaster management system.

A five-day brainstorming session, organised by the National Programme on Earthquake Engineering Education, began at the IIT on Monday on the earthquake hazard in the country, with special emphasis on the Calcutta metropolitan area.

“There are two areas from where Calcutta remains under threat from natural calamities. First, the city sits on a highly active seismic zone. Second, since it is located in the coastal belt, it can experience storms like the 1999 super-cyclone in Orissa,” said S.K. Srivastava, additional director-general of the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD).

After the session, Sisir Kumar Dube, director, IIT, said the institute would soon open a department exclusively dealing with disaster management and mitigation. “The entire purpose of the department will be to evolve techniques to tackle and manage any eventuality,” Dube said. Earlier, Srivastava had said the IMD would extend all help to set up such a department at the IIT. He also pointed out that the department would also offer M.Tech and doctoral courses. Srivastava said in developed countries, a well-laid-out awareness programme and disaster management preparedness helped prevent loss of lives during calamities. “You can never predict an earthquake, but certain awareness and well-planned strategies to tackle an eventuality can help us save more lives,” the meteorologist pointed out.

The opening session underscored the need for a proper microzonation of Calcutta, a map with the entire seismic zone sub-divided into smaller zones, which will have information on various earthquake-related events. “The epicentre of all seismic activity in the Calcutta region lies south of the city, near the mouth of the Hooghly. We need to have a microzonation of the city,” said Sankar Nath, professor of geology and geophysics at the IIT.

The objective of microzonation is to establish geological and geo-morphic units of the city and its neighbourhood, including assessment of soil characteristics and bedrock configuration. It also helps detect, delineate and characterise major and minor faults that are seismically active.

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