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Disaster mitigation in human settlements

Present scenario of urbanization indicates that around 50% of world population will be living in cities and it is the number of mega cities which are likely to grow to 100, 90% of these would lie in developing nations.

On the other hand increase in Natural disaster in developing countries and lack of capacities of these countries and lack of capacities of these countries to manage the risks have been jeopardizing the process of development. Compared with 30 years ago, the annual cost of natural catastrophes has increased nine fold. Infact according to one of the World Bank estimate proportions of credits approved for new infrastructure had to be diverted to pay for reconstruction following catastrophic events. Over last 10 years geological events such as earthquake and volcano eruption have occurred evenly through out. While the atmospheric events like windstorms, hurricanes, floding, drought, avalanches and forest fires have increased. Windstorms and flooding are most common, each accounting for approximately 33 percent of all events. Sixty percent of deaths from natural disasters are the result of floods. While economics losses from floods, windstorms and hurricanes are almost equally divided, with each accounting for nearly 30 percent of all losses, only 8 percent of flood damage is insured as opposed to 67 percent of the damage from windstorms. The reason for this is that windstorms occur in areas of the world where there is a high level of insurance – the United States, Japan and Australia- while floods dominate in Asia, where the insurance level is low.

Turkey having US $ 20 billion deficit and annual inflartion of 50%, Government was in process of securing US $ 5 billion loan from IMF to enable cut deficit. However earthquake added burden of US $ 8 billion during 1999.

All the above mentioned catastrophes have one thing in common, i.e impact on the poor and the damage to buildings.

To understand the need for intervention in disaster mitigation in an urban situation it is most important to understand the magnitude of the risk involved and its likely consequenmces of Human life and property. Risk assesment is a function of hazard intensity and vulnerability.

Relevant issues

  1. We need to identify risks and the consequences of these risks- Therefore risk assessment is the basic information that is utmost importance. In the urban situation there is very thin line between manmade and natural disasters.
  2. For risk assessment there are two fundamental variables to be identified and assessed: Hazard intensity and vulnerability, i.e what and who is affected.
  3. Urban part of the nation is most vulnerable to disasters. Hazard intensity can be reduced by moving people away from hazard locations or protecting them. Cost benefit would quantity a better option.
  4. Reduction of vulnerability: By preparing shelters, infrastructure and people.

Vital facts of risks

  • Risk depends on hazard intensity and vulnerability. We may not be able to control intensity of hazards out we can intervene to reduce vulnerability, thereby reducing the impact.
  • It is the poor and weak who are most vulnerable.
  • It is not the disasters that kill, it is the built environment which kill masses, as a strong disaster finds its alley in a weak building.
  • It is the communities and human settlements which needs to be prepared as it is the communities who need to react first and it is the habitats which need to be strengthened to withstand the forces of hazards.
  • Damage costs in urban areas is proportionately higher in terms of number of people affected due to congestion and value of assets in terms of infrastructure and buildings.


Case of Delhi

  • Delhi lies in seismic zone IV which is the 2nd most active zone in India.
  • Master plan perspective 2001 nowhere recognises the fact that Delhi lies high seismic zone.
  • In the past Earthquake have been of the magnitude around 6.5 on Richter scale.
  • More than 30-lakh population is living in JJ clusters and around 2 lakh houses reported kutcha in 1991·
  • With more than 50% houses built privately there has been absolute laxity in enforcement of seismic building codes.
  • Rate of population growth has been more than 50% and 85% population lives in high density areas @ 22399 persons per sq km.
  • 54% of houses have areas less than 50 sq m and 38% have less than 30 sq m. That means availability of space is less than 5 sq m per person.
  • In terms of material of housing 42% houses are Built with RCC roof and 72% walls in brick. Only22% are in frames. 32% of houses are built in stone. In case of low income housing 72% is mason built.
  • Maximum expenditure in low income housing is on food (70-80%) rent is 1 – 6 %
  • A study conducted by one of the NGOS on an area of mixed group low income housing with areas 25 sqms, 12.5 sq m and JJ cluster. It was found that if an earthquake of magnitude of 7 strikes Delhi as predicted, based on the analysis and history in the past, damage to buildings in such a small cluster of 9700 households would cost around Rs.471 million for reconstruction alone (average 50000/unit)·
  • And working on same pattern for 38% housing (which are less than 30 sqms) of Delhi in similar situation i.e around 18.62 lakhs X0.38=7.08 lakhs (1991 census) would be damaged costing around Rs 350000 lakhs or Rs 35oo crores.
  • Therefore annual plan of constructing 7 lakh houses could be easily exhausted in Delhi alone.

What we have done so far
HUDCO is the only organisation in the country that has been concentrating on these issues simultaneously for decades together.

Apart from its routine operations of techno-financing housing and basic infrastructure.

  • It promotes disaster resistant techniologies for human habitat.
  • It adopts villages to demonstrate how to go about building shelters with simplicity to safety, through simple illustration of Dos and Donts in disaster prone areas.
  • It provides knowledge on spatial planning and design in disaster prone areas keeping traditional, socio-cultural styles intact.
  • Imparts ski;lls in improvising traditional building techniques using local materials to masons and artisans through its network of building centres allover the country.
  • Conducts workshops to train engineers, architects, builders, administrators and project managers the importance of using safe technologies for construction of buildings at its Human Settlement Management Institute at Delhi.
  • Funds rehabilitation projects needing reconstruction and retrofitting of housing and infrastructure.
  • So far HUDCO has funded reconstruction / rehabilitation of 1,911,368 dwelling units in the country with a loan amount of Rs 1342.37 crores in disaster affected areas.
  • Its total operations in housing loan commitments have been Rs.17116 crores.

In order to meet the demand of housing Govt of India has laid a two million housing programme in which 7lakhs of dus are to be constructed in urban areas. Requiring an investment of Rs 4000 crores annually.

As it is, this is a very ambitious plan if seen in perspective of the resources required and the capacity of the states to take up this challenge.

However, if we take cue from a pattern of risks in urban situations like Delhi, there is tremendous need to reconsider programme of govt. of India in terms of not only building 7 lakh new houses annually but strengthening part of the exchequer of rehabilitation in case of disasters. An Example of Delhi can be seen for demonstration of how one catatosrophe in Delhi can reverse the development plan of whole of the nation

What we can do

  • We can train communities right from grass root level to professional and administrators how to build safe shelters, retrofit them and make them disaster resistant programmes.
  • We can adopt villages and townships to demonstrate environmentally, healthy and safe villages and townships.
  • We can extend our hand to fund rehabilitation programmes under the Government of India’s schemes.

What we need to do

  • With vulnerability atlas in place, we need to undertake microzonation of each disaster prone area identified in the atlas.
  • We need to set up a techno-legal regime by enacting laws for enforcement of codal provisions for disaster resistant techniques
  • We need to set up a techno-financial regime.
  • We need to disseminate as far as possible, message of preparedness.
  • Prepare Disater Mitigation Plans and Community Action Plans.