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Survey on school, hospital structure

- Based on findings, govt to identify retrofitting requirement to make the buildings safer

Feb. 8: The Assam State Disaster Management Authority is carrying out a status survey of 800 schools and hospitals (both government and private) to assess their vulnerability to earthquakes, fire hazards, windstorms as well as urban floods.

The authority has engaged the civil engineering department of Assam Engineering College (AEC) to carry out a status survey to assess the structural and non-structural vulnerability and then bring up the retrofitting requirements against possible hazards. The project costs Rs 53 lakh and its report will be ready in the next two to three months.

“As a school is a densely populated place and children are one of the most vulnerable groups in society to disasters, assessment of the status of the building structures is necessary. Under the project, both structural and non-structural vulnerability of buildings will be assessed and based on the findings we will try to identify the retrofitting requirement to make them technically safe,” teacher of civil engineering department, AEC, Jayanta Pathak told The Telegraph.

Retrofitting, according to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, is to provide a machine with a new part. Retrofitting of buildings helps modification of the existing structure to make them more resistant to seismic activity, ground motion, or soil failure because of earthquakes.

“Using different technical methodology, we are trying to identify the damage grades (grade I to grade V) of school and hospital buildings and accordingly decide which requires retrofitting support. A building with five damage grade is not advisable to go for retrofitting as the cost will be more than constructing a new building,” Pathak said.

The project has been initiated keeping in mind that the city is situated on the seismically active Zone V and mushrooming growth of buildings and constructions. The assessment is being done as a pilot project in the city and is likely to be adopted for buildings in the rest of the state gradually.

“Keeping in mind the vulnerability of schools and hospitals, principal secretary of state revenue and disaster management authority V.K. Pipersenia, Assam State Disaster Managing Authority CEO Atul Chaturvedi and state project officer Nandita Hazarika are encouraging us to execute the project,” Pathak said.

“Eighty per cent of the schools to be covered are elementary and the rest are high and higher secondary schools. The survey is necessary to assess structures of which schools are safe and which are not. We are also assessing schools with Assam-type constructions. We will also assess the vulnerability of schools to urban flooding which is becoming a big problem in Guwahati,” he said.

“We are also surveying the hospital buildings, both private and government and once the status of the building structures are known, safety measures can be initiated against possible hazards. If we can gauge the status of school buildings we can prevent damage to those during disasters. We have seen how schools collapsed during the Bhuj earthquake in 2001,” Pathak said.

Bina Kumari Debi, headmistress of Chenikuthi Lower Primary School, where retro-fitting support has been provided by experts of AEC said: “We feel quite safe now that the two-storey building which was constructed in 1989-90 is capable of withstanding earthquakes.”

The technology was provided to the school last year under a joint project of Seeds India, an NGO and National Technical University, Singapore. The project was financed by Tamashek Foundation, Singapore.