09 / 1995
The Maharashtra-Karnataka earthquake of September 30, 1993, of 6.4 magnitude on the Richter Scale, was a shallow-focus earthquake. The impact of this disaster was primarily borne by a relatively small area in Umarga and Ausa Talukas of Osmanabad and Latur Districts respectively. The intensity of damage was high with official reports of over 9,000 killed and about 15,000 injured. The loss of cattle was also high in some areas. The most devastating image of the affected areas is the extensive damage of the buildings: 25 villages reduced to rubble and a further 58 severely damaged. The overall population in the five affected districts is 95.8 lakhs of which 29.6 lakhs is in Latur and Osmanabad. The total number of houses in the affected region is estimated at 16.5 lakhs.
As result of this massive earthquake, thousand of people have become homeless.
The Government first actions
The Marathwada earthquake is one of the biggest disasters that has been experienced in India over the last few decades. It received wide coverage in both the national and international media, and a mobilisation of relief effort was undertaken at an unprecedented scale in the past. A wide range of agencies, ranging from the central and State Government, the Army and police and private sector agencies to NGOs, responded. The Government of Maharashtra initiated a professionally managed and effective response to the earthquake within 24 hours of the disaster. Mobilisation of officials from across the State was enabled and a high level team under the direct supervision of the Chief Minister and Chief Secretary coordinated action in the field. In spite of inclement weather, communication break downs and logistic bottlenecks, the combination of Government and NGO relief efforts was commendable and could well serve as a model for future response. This has to be viewed especially within the context that the State Government was relatively unprepared to cope with an earthquake of such intensity, in a region which was official classified at relatively low seismic risk.
The reconstruction phase
Nevertheless, an extension of efficiency of the Maharashtra administration, in coping with the relief effort, may well lead to the failure of the process of reconstruction if it continues with unmodified objectives and administration arrangement. This is borne out by a wide range of international and national experience in post-disaster situations, which indicate that the process of reconstruction constitutes has its own imperatives, dynamics and processes which contrast strongly with relief operation. There is no reason to believe that the Marathwada earthquake will be a major departure from theses processes. In fact, a large number of the potential conflicts that will dog the process of reconstruction, including caste and community conflict, distress sales and black marketing of relief supplies, have already started in the region. Hence, it will be important for the Maharashtra Government, NGOs, private relief and construction agencies and the donor community, to take stock of the current situation and shift to a modified strategy for reconstruction.
The most effective solution to this process is to involve the community in decision making as far as relocation, cluster layout, plot allocation and sizes are concerned. This will have to be undertaken as a priority community development activity. NGOs could provide an effective interface between the Government and communities in this area. A tripartite agreement should have to be worked out between Government agencies, NGOs and communities clearly laying down their roles, responsabilities and the time frames for the execution of these activities.
Several voluntary and non-governmental organizations also rushed to the rescue of the people. Food and some essential things such as medicines were supplied by theses agencies. Some of theses organizations have adopted certain villages and are resettling the population.
A large number of clusters of institutions are currently operating in the earthquake affected region. The most prominent among them are: the State Administration, quasi-governmental bodies, private sector construction agencies, NGOs, community based organization, village panchayat and building artisans. An effective coordination of all of these is necessary for the successful management of the reconstruction process.
Hence it is important in the reconstruction process to maintain a plurality of options, so that the State Government has the flexibility to adopt an appropriate institutional structure to meet emergent needs. The closing of options especially on the construction front could be both disastrous for the community, and could lead to a considerable waste of public funds. Rushing into a decision on the choice of technology and form of building, without consultation with local communities, could lead to the rejection of the entire package six months downstream when the buildings are complete.
The Government carried out the reconstruction through contractors. It did not relocate the people and it limited the action of NGOs and destroyed the social process. The argument given by the Government was that the people never would have been able to carry out the reconstruction themselves. Although limited, the work carried out by the NGOs with the participation of the inhabitants demonstrated the contrary. TARU proposes a strategy for reconstruction with a tripartite agreement between Government Agencies, NGOs and communities.
REVI Aromar and all., TARU FOR DEVELOPMENT, Action Plan for reconstruction in Earthquake Affected Region of Maharashtra, BUILDING MATERIALS TECHNOLOGY PROMOTION COUNCIL, 1993/10/21 (INDIA)