Turkey earthquake: A wake-up call for construction industry | By Hammad Gilllani


Turkey earthquake: A wake-up call for construction industry

IT was a peaceful morning, just like any other. The sun was shining, and the birds were singing, while the people of Pakistan’s northern regions and Azad Kashmir went about their daily lives. But little did they know, a devastating tragedy was about to strike, changing their lives forever. As I sat on the porch of my house, reading a book and enjoying the blessed hours of Ramadan, a sudden explosion rocked the ground beneath me. At first, it was just a small tremor, but within seconds, it grew into a violent earthquake, tearing apart everything in its path.

When I ran outside and witnessed the aftermath of a devastating earthquake in 2005, it was like a scene from a disaster movie brought to life. Buildings collapsed, people screamed and shouted, and the air was thick with the dust of mud houses rising into the sky. It was a stark reminder of the fragility of life and the immense power of Mother Nature.The recent earthquake in Turkey serves as a stark reminder of the devastation that can be caused by natural disasters. As someone who experienced the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan’s northern areas and Pak administrative Kashmir, I can relate to the pain and suffering of the Turkish and Syrian people. The growth of Pakistan’s construction industry since the 2005 earthquake has been rapid, but unfortunately, there has been a lack of proper checks and balances by the government.

It is important to remember the loss and destruction caused by the 2005 earthquake, which was largely due to the outdated and unplanned infrastructure. Unfortunately, the current situation in Pakistan is not much different, and in the event of another tragedy like an earthquake, the potential for loss and devastation is high. The recent earthquake in Turkey and Syria has once again highlighted the critical need for stricter enforcement of building safety regulations. While newer buildings are designed to withstand high-magnitude earthquakes, older structures and those constructed without adhering to current standards are highly vulnerable to damage.

Reports suggest that rule-breaking is widespread in Turkey despite the government’s amnesty, posing a significant threat to the safety of those living and working in such structures. Building safety regulations play a crucial role in ensuring the safety of individuals, and noncompliance with these rules can lead to disastrous consequences.Sadly, many countries have significant loopholes in their regulations that enable violations to occur.

Japan provides an example of how structures can withstand earthquakes, even in densely populated areas, by effectively implementing building safety regulations. Measures such as incorporating motion dampers, building on shock absorbers, and strengthening structures have proven effective in ensuring building safety. Meanwhile, Turkey has launched a crackdown on construction contractors responsible for poorly constructed buildings following recent earthquakes, detaining those accountable and conducting investigations. However, corruption and a lack of implementation of building safety regulations remain significant issues in Pakistan.

The catastrophic consequences of a lack of proper building safety measures were seen during the 2005 earthquake in areas of Pakistan, resulting in the loss of thousands of lives and leaving millions homeless. Since then, the Pakistani government has taken some measures to improve building safety, including the adoption of new building codes and the establishment of the National Disaster Management Authority. However, the implementation of these measures remains a significant challenge due to corruption and a lack of enforcement.

To ensure building safety, Pakistan must prioritize the safety of citizens and take immediate action to enforce building safety regulations. The development of innovative building materials and construction techniques that can withstand earthquakes is also essential. Research and development should be a top priority for the construction industry and the government to ensure that Pakistan is prepared to face future earthquakes. In addition, the development of seismic monitoring systems and early warning systems is crucial. These systems can detect and alert people in advance of an impending earthquake, providing them with time to take necessary precautions and evacuate the area.

In conclusion, the recent earthquakes serve as a reminder for proper implementation of building safety regulations. Pakistan must take urgent action to improve building safety and reduce the risk of further devastation from earthquakes. The government must ensure that building safety regulations are strictly enforced, and builders and contractors prioritize safety over cost-cutting. The development of innovative building materials, seismic monitoring systems, and early warning systems must also be prioritized to ensure the safety of individuals in Pakistan and protect them from the dangers of poorly constructed buildings.


—The writer is contributing columnist, based in Dubai.