October 16, 2017 was an eye opening day for Shillongites- a day when they were made aware of their resilience towards an impending mega earthquake, which historians have predicted for long but the exact date and time for which is not possible to be known. As two people from Norway’s Research Centre, NORSAR gave a presentation on the status of Shillong as a city and its preparedness for a natural disaster that is sure to strike some day, it was worrying to see how much more the city has to achieve and what we lacked in terms of disaster readiness. It was sad to know that despite being fully aware of the fact that the city lies in Zone 5 of the seismic activity, the city is still seen to be openly flouting building bye laws without proper interception from the Urban Development Authorities. As it is, Shillong is an unplanned city which can be clearly seen from the Google Earth demographics from 2007 to 2017 that shows the decadal growth of Shillong- How, in just 10 years, Shillong has been turned into an urban jungle:
An important point was raised in this event was by Mr. Aiban Mawkhroh, an architect from Shillong wherein he emphasized on how the traditional houses of the Khasis in earlier times were earthquake resistant and the manner in which modern houses can replicate the same. His presentation on ‘Earthquake Solutions- Traditional-Colonial-Modern’ presented an insight into how the city has sidelined the importance of architectural planning and set out on a massive, unplanned urbanization and how we can learn from history about earthquake solutions by Khasi traditional houses.
Professor, Dept. of Civil Engineering, Assam Engineering College, Mr. Jayanta Pathak mentioned that there is a huge gap between provision and implementation and the need to bridge this gap at the earliest. He has worked extensively with NORSAR into making parts of Assam earthquake ready and has achieved a significant amount of success in this.
Throwing more light on NORSAR’s research on Shillong, Senior Research Engineer, NORSAR, Mr. Dominik Lang pointed out that Shillong is surrounded by various faults- active and dull while it stands extremely exposed and vulnerable.
It is important to note that due to its location and high rate of infiltration from border areas, especially Bangladesh, Shillong will swallow the villages very soon owing to increased and unchecked migration from Bangladesh and Myanmar leading to population growth thereby raising the concerns for making the city highly earthquake resilient due to population pressure.
In the light of above revelations, NORSAR also came up with solutions on how to go about preparing the city. ....
As seen from the representation above, a proper earthquake preparation measure requires the collaboration of the grassroots level authorities including the Dorbars working hands in gloves with people as well as the higher level authorities including the MSDMA, DDMA, MUDA, SME, PHE, PWD and others. However, it will be interesting to see whether or not authorities such as MUDA would be willing to incorporate the suggestions put forward by NORSAR and if at all, Shillong as an earthquake prone city will venture on its way to becoming a safe place for its residents.