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Indian realty in search for earthquake warning system

By Hrishi Kumar

NEW DELHI: For us all, real estate is a term synonymous with structures and buildings. These buildings can be broadly categorised into industrial, commercial and residential setups. Being a developing nation, we usually observe realty development in clusters; where industries, commercial and residential spaces, all get their separate land parcels for construction. As a result, a city is usually filled up with offices, shopping complexes and houses built on tall skyscrapers. In the meanwhile though, since industries and plant & machineries get land banks around the outskirts, these units end up surrounding a fully developed city, which in case of a natural calamity can multiply the damage.

For any form of development, real estate sector is the backbone. Since privatisation, more and more domestic players have emerged and entered into the realty sector which is allowing our country to meet the much needed supply of housing, retail spaces and offices. This in turn shifts our focus towards the importance of having a system that can keep us safe and alarmed in case of a natural calamity.

Now, calamities can be classified in two ways, where earthquakes, tsunamis, cyclones and others arise from natural causes and won’t knock your doors before coming. On the other hand, floods, landslides and others may or may not be due to natural reasons. Having improper drainage systems and irresponsible ways of construction on hilltops can cause floods and landslides, where nature cannot be regarded as a reason. Tsunamis and cyclones are likely to hit the coastal regions more and usually give us some time to prepare and evacuate; but Earthquakes do not give us time to even react. With modern day technologies and equipments, developers are working very hard towards structural stability and soundness. But all can still go in vain when you’re sitting right above the seismic zones 4 and 5, where Earthquakes can hit at magnitudes of over 7 and 8. Developers in India have access to RCC framed structures and ball bearings installed under the base of structures that allow the buildings to become resistant. “Modern day construction techniques and equipments can allow the structures to become resistant to some extent only. It does not mean that the structure won’t shake during an earthquake or there won’t be any damage to the property. It simply means that structures will hold there ground but doesn’t guarantee safety of life or property. Indian structures located especially under seismic zones 4 and 5 require systems that can alarm the inhabitants in case of an earthquake”, shares Bijender Goel, MD, Terra Techcom Pvt. Ltd.

“In last two decades, about a million people have died due to Earthquakes and the loss to asset is simply untold. Developers in India, especially in NCR regions are working diligently towards providing Earthquake resistance by developing RCC framed structures and even increasing the depth of excavation to provide more strength to the towers. It is true though, that in case of a mega quake, our cities require a system that can help in allowing some time for people to evacuate the buildings before the quake takes full shape”, believes Vikas Bhasin, MD, Saya Group. 

To answer such queries and alarm people before the secondary waves i.e. the waves that can cause damage, arrives; Terra Techcom Pvt. Ltd. has entered India and other countries of South Asia, where there are higher seismic zones and number of earthquake occurrences are more. In collaboration with a German based company, Secty Electronics GmBH, it brings ‘On site early earthquake warning and security system (On site EWS)’. “In India, before On site EWS, we had the Regional earthquake warning system (REWS) which had been installed at Uttrakhand and was put under a series of tests. This product had been giving false alarms and thus, lost its credibility and effectiveness. Whereas, the On site EWS has been tested and approved by Chennai-based Structural Engineering Research Centre (CSIR-SERC), a pioneer advanced seismic testing and research laboratory under the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR); that has allowed us to install the On site EWS device at HIPA office in Gurgaon and New Secretariat Building Haryana in Chandigarh”, adds Goel.

Earthquake emits two sets of waves, first primary waves (P) which are harmless, followed by damaging waves ‘secondary waves (S)’ and ‘surface waves (R)’. By detecting these primary (P) waves, we can warn the people that ‘an earthquake is on its way’. Earthquakes have become an issue before this world and there is a severe need of any such earthquake warning system that can warn people at least few seconds before the damaging secondary (S) waves strike. On site EWS developed by Secty Electronics senses the primary waves of an earthquake and its eight threshold values are programmed in such a manner that it calculates the intensity of 5 at the threshold value  01 and triggers alarm at the intensity of 6 (threshold value 02). Threshold values 03, 04,  05, 06 and 07 are programmed in such a manner to shut off the running applications, like parking of elevators to nearest floors, shutting off gas/power/water supply, and open/exit gates. Threshold value 08 tells that earthquake is in the building. Thus, it is very useful for IT sectors, Educational Institutions, Shopping Malls, Public Buildings, Industries, Apartments, Multi-story buildings, Hotels, Cinemas, Shopping Malls, Bridges, Tunnels, Metro/ Railways/Airports, Nuclear/ Power Stations, Oil refineries and almost everywhere. “This product at present is the most ideal precautionary measure against Earthquakes, where people can get some time to react to the situation and evacuate the premises. The On site EWS if reaches out to the country, will allow countless lives to get saved and in some cases, even assets”, avers Rakesh Yadav, Chairman, Antriksh India.

“In case of a calamity like an Earthquake, every second counts. In a country like India where real estate sector is on a boom and developing lakhs of units every year, imagine the number of people who will be living in the coming years. Multiple researches and reports are suggesting that there is a big earthquake due, which will hit India anywhere, and it is like a time bomb ticking. In such a scenario, On site EWS is the only technology available to mankind today which can help reduce the losses of life in future”, shares and further explains Goel. Speaking about the seismic zones 4 and 5, almost entire NCR and northern parts of India are a part of it. Every year we witness several earthquakes with varied magnitudes whose epicentres are usually in Nepal or Afghanistan, and still its ripple effects are so strong that we can feel it hundreds and thousands of kilometres away. India has been a witness to many major earthquakes in the past, and one just cannot forget India’s 52nd Republic Day in 2001 when an earthquake that lasted 2 minutes had struck Gujarat with its epicentre being in Bhuj with a depth of only 16 Kms. As many as 20,000 people died and over 1,50,000 people were injured with almost 4,00,000 homes and other properties destroyed. “Every major earthquake in India has resulted with a loss of thousands of lives. With the land being limited and put to use for development, there is tremendous pressure on the ground below and with people residing on these lands, they are under the risk of getting exposed to such unforeseen damages. Thus, it becomes imperative to have devices that can alarm before the secondary waves of an earthquake strike. And with the availability of On site EWS now in India, damage to life and property can be significantly reduced”, says Dhiraj Jain, Director, Mahagun Group.

“Indian real estate sector is on a development spree with numerous residential and commercial projects mushrooming in Tier 1 and 2 cities of the country. As these cities develop, migrations will increase, due to high job opportunities and thus, these will become densely populated over the years. As more and more people reside in one city, the risk of loosing higher number of lives increase as Earthquakes won’t tell the time and place before they strike. With the presence of such a technology that can grant even a single second to save lives, it is highly welcomed by the realty sector and very soon we will see this system becoming operational in several townships and other commercial projects in India”, concludes Kushagr Ansal, Director, Ansal Housing.

About the Author

Hrishi is the Head – ICCPL Group Of Companies. He is a a researcher, analyst & consultant with diverse experience in the field of real estate and allied industries whose strength lies in writing and providing 360 degree marketing and branding solutions. Holding a B.Com (Hons.) degree from Delhi University, an MBA degree and a International Management degree from Poitiers University, France, allows him to present thoroughly researched national as well as international knowledge to the audience.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed by the author in this feature are entirely his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of India CSR.

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