Thursday, October 6, 2011

Scarcity Of Earth Science Specialists Hurting India

Shobhan Saxena's article in the Times of India on the scarcity of earth science specialists throws Indian geologists in poor light. She quotes a geologist:

"From the data available and signs in recent years, it's clear that a big earthquake of magnitude 7/8 is long overdue in north India, but we are not prepared. The government geologists are happy monitoring the Richter scale and announcing the intensity of the quake when it happens. That's it," says the expert who doesn't want to be named.

Ouch... that is harsh. But there is some truth in it. A case in point is the website of the Geological Survey of India. Apart from a four line statement, there has been no effort to explain the Sikkim /Nepal earthquake. And no easily accessible details that I could find of what the Geological Survey scientists are doing or attempting to do in terms of a sustained program to educate the citizenry about earthquakes and other geo-hazards.  The media coverage didn't help either. There were no lead articles by geologists in major newspapers and no geologists appeared on major news channels to talk about the earthquake and earthquake preparedness.

You can't pin the blame entirely on the scientists. The article points out that we have few scholars pursuing advanced degrees in geology and earthquake studies. That may be right. But the problem is not just the small number of geologists but that their recommendations regarding building standards and construction practices are flouted with impunity. If its accountability you are looking for then you need to cast the net wider to encompass the polity and civil governance. Politicians, civic officials of municipalities and builders must share the blame for allowing the growth of the unplanned chaotic tottering towns of the Himalayas.

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