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Lessons from Great Shillong Earthquake

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Seminar marks its 127th anniv

By Our Reporter

SHILLONG, June 12: A national seminar commemorating the 127th anniversary of the Great Shillong Earthquake of 1897 was held on Wednesday. The event was organised by the Ministry of Earth Sciences, National Institute of Disaster Management, Ministry of Home Affairs, Disaster Management, Initiatives and Convergence Society, Department of Geology, North-Eastern Hill University (NEHU), Shillong, and the Geological Society of India.
The event, titled ‘127th Anniversary of Great Shillong Earthquake, 1897: Are we prepared?’, began at 9:30 am at the Multi-Use Convention Hall of NEHU, Shillong, drawing over 350 participants. The programme featured an awareness lecture, a geo-exhibition, the announcement of Team India for the International Earth Science Olympiad (IESO) 2024, and cultural performances highlighting earthquake safety measures.
A fire and emergency services mock drill demonstrated responses to seismic disasters.
The seminar began with the traditional Saraswati Vandana and lamp lighting ceremony. Col Omkar Singh, Registrar of NEHU and event chairman, welcomed attendees and emphasised the region’s vulnerability to seismic activities, underscoring the necessity of preventive measures.
Prof Devesh Walia, Dean of the School of Human and Environmental Science at NEHU, introduced the seminar’s theme, stressing the importance of public awareness and resilient infrastructure. He highlighted ongoing efforts to develop earthquake-resistant buildings and called for community involvement in disaster risk reduction in line with the Prime Minister’s ten-point agenda.
Expert insights
The guest of honour, GK Kesari, ADG and HoD, Geological Survey of India, North-Eastern Region, discussed mitigation strategies for Seismic Zone V, advocating for advanced building designs and strategic urban planning.
Dr OP Mishra, Director of the National Centre for Seismology, noted the unpredictability of earthquakes and the crucial role of resilient infrastructure in minimizing their impact. He warned that increasing population and industrialization heighten risks, making timely action imperative.
The chief guest, Padma Shri awardee Prof Harsh K Gupta, president of the Geological Society of India, reflected on global lessons in earthquake preparedness. He proposed that June 12 be observed annually as National Earthquake Day to promote awareness and safety measures. Prof Gupta provided historical context, recalling the 1897 Shillong Earthquake’s catastrophic impact.
Cultural highlights
The Department of Geology at NEHU showcased a cultural dance and an educational skit on earthquake safety. A geo-exhibition featured displays from the Geological Survey of India, North-Eastern Space Application Centre, and other institutions, offering participants a chance to engage with geological experts and exhibits.
In a technical session, Prof Gupta detailed the correlation between earthquake magnitude and damage, advocating for a culture of resilience and earthquake education, especially for children.
Int’l Earth Science Olympiad selection
The seminar concluded with the announcement of the four students selected to represent India at the IESO 2024 in Beijing — Siddarth Kumar (Kerala), Manan Sethia (Raipur, Chhattisgarh), Rudra Pethani (Gujarat), and Yashaswee Gupta (Rajasthan). These students, chosen after rigorous training, will serve as ambassadors for the Ministry of Earth Sciences.
Labli Das, a research scholar from the Department of Geology at NEHU, delivered the vote of thanks, expressing gratitude to all participants and organizers for their contributions to the seminar’s success.

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