Children take cover under desks
Dharamshala, October 2, - On Saturday, September 27 when the drums started to beat, all the students of TCV Gopalpur School disappeared under their study tables. A minute later, when the drum-roll stopped, all the students started out from their classrooms covering their heads with their hands and gathered at the School ground, where respective class teachers checked if all were safely evacuated. As a part of the School Disaster Management Plan, students were preparing in the event of an earthquake.
Organised by the School Disaster Management Committee under the guidance of the community officer (Library of Tibetan Works and Archives and GeoHazards International) this earthquake drill was carried out in the school to prepare students and teachers for such an eventuality under the earthquake risk reduction programme.
According to the Community Officer, Mr. Tsering Dhundup, the sensitization meetings and the training programme were conducted to create awareness on the types of hazards and to promote a culture of disaster safety in schools. He said it was important for schools to have an effective disaster management plan of their own as school children are most vulnerable in case of a disaster. He further added that, in view of the geo-physical location of the region, Dharamshala falls in the seismic zone V, the highest in the seismic zoning map of India and hence, it is important to raise awareness about earthquake safety and preparedness plan in schools.
School children assemble on the ground after drum beats
The Headmaster of the senior section of the school, Mr. Kelsang Wangdue said that, among all the public facilities, children in schools are among the most vulnerable groups during any disaster and even though natural hazards were unstoppable, we could at least prevent and minimise the risks to students. Reiterating the importance of earthquake preparedness, he expressed that the school plans to conduct earthquake drill at least twice a year.
According to the research findings out of 76 settlements and areas with Tibetan population, 51 are located in the zone IV and V (most vulnerable zones) accounting to over 62 per cent of the exile population in India. Similarly, out of the 70 Tibetan schools, 54 are located in these highest zones accounting to 77% of the total schools. Dharamshala is one of the 16 Tibetan settlements located in the highest zone V according to the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS-1893-2002).
The 1905 Kangra earthquake of 7.8 Magnitude serves as a grim reminder of this unpleasant yet severe problem. Considered as the deadliest earthquake in the history of India, the Kangra earthquake claimed 19,727 lives of its 375,000 epicentral population and devastated Dharamshala, Kangra and neighbouring towns and villages on 4th April 1905. After 1905 the region has been struck by several minor earthquakes including 15 June 1978 with M=5.0 and April 26, 1986 earthquake of M=5.7 which occurred in the same general epicentral region. Dharamshala continues to experience frequent minor earthquakes. Several seismologists have confirmed that the potential for future damaging earthquakes in the region is high.
Dharamshala is without doubt the political and spiritual hub of Tibetans across the world. The people and Tibetan culture in Dharamshala has become the showcase in the eyes of the world. Hence, any disastrous eventuality happening in the area will have a much wider impact not just to the local populace but to the whole Tibetan community across the world.
Although it's been over a century since the great 1905 earthquake razed the whole area of Dharamshala and Kangra, but one must not forget, "the farther you are away from the last earthquake, the closer you are to the next one". The time we spend on prevention today may be the life we save tomorrow.
The Earthquake Safety Program in Dharamshala is a joint initiative of the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives and GeoHazards International to help inform, persuade, and integrate the issues of safety to create safe community. With the goal to promote a culture of disaster preparedness in the Tibetan community, every effort is being made to sensitize the community especially the school children on issues of disaster preparedness and safety measures. Library of Tibetan Works and Archives and GeoHazards International plan to organize more such drills in other schools in future. GHI has worked to improve school earthquake safety in developing countries since 1995.