Kangra safe corners

The Himalaya is the youngest range of mountains in the world are immensely prone to earthquakes. The entire range falls in seismic zone 5 and 4 - it is highly prone to earthquakes of destructive intensity. The major Indian towns in the Himalaya have all grown in a haphazard manner in recent times, bet it Shimla, darjeeling or Mussoruie. Shimla, the capital of Himachal Pradesh, has become a beehive of tall, poorly constructed buildings that have come up literally one upon another on slopes of 60-70 degrees. The soil conditions, foundation type and building dimensions are hardly taken into account. The traditional modes of construction have been all abandoned in the hill towns of India.

Published: Tuesday 15 May 2001

kangra safe corners

-- T he merit of kat-ki-kunni (timber-cornered building) of Himachal Pradesh can be traced back to 1905, if not earlier. A massive temblor levelled every village from Dharamsala to Kangra. Measuring 8.0 on the Richter scale, it lasted two minutes and was felt over 416,000 sq km. But, buildings with kat-ki-kunni design in the Kullu valley survived, mentions the India Disasters Report 2000 , brought out by Oxfam. The design is based on a simple fact -- corners are the most vulnerable parts of buildings when earth quakes.

The design uses materials like timber and stone. The important feature is a pivoted wooden joint at special corners. This allows movement and takes care of tensile stress. Timber is one of the best materials for earthquake-prone areas, especially in the hilly areas of Himachal, Kulu and Kangra valley. Timber allows the flexible movement of forces. But timber is in short supply, and substitutes are not easy to come by. Steel bars are not easily accessible in hilly areas. Scientists such as A S Arya, head of the quake engineering cell of the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), have improvised and transformed traditional designs like the kat-ki-kunni into contemporary typology of continuous reinforced tie-bands.

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