The Bhuj Catastrophe and Solutions

After listening to the reports of the Bhuj earthquake disaster in the Gujurat District of India. I could not help but feel enraged at the tremendous and unnecessary loss of life. All too often people were killed due to shoddy construction of the buildings that they occupied. As with the recent disaster in Turkey, lack of proper reinforcement and substandard building materials commonly contributed to the structural collapses.

The statistics for Bhuj are staggering. 17,000 people are dead with another 600,000 homeless. Many more have yet to die from starvation or disease as the region goes through economic collapse. As usual, the International community is pouring money and assistance into the area. Sadly, a significant chunk of this aid will disappear into the pockets of corrupt administrators, officials and the contractors involved in the reconstruction. The thought that whatever is rebuilt will again be constructed to the same negligent and substandard levels is inconceivable yet inevitable.

For those who are unfamiliar with the Indian economy, it remains on of the most corrupt in the entire world. Mexico pales in comparison to the outdated and graft riddled economic infrastructure that the Subcontinent is saddled with. Like a millstone around the population’s neck, the featherbedding and bribery drag down any progress that the country tries to make.

I speak from personal experience in this matter. Not long ago I was involved in an attempt to start a manufacturing facility in Shimla, a city in the Shogi district of India. The regulations governing the importation of equipment and supplies literally strangle any effort at establishing new business. A prime example is the ferocious duty that must be paid on used equipment that is brought into the country. The tax approaches something on the order of 50% of the material’s value. The result is that, more often than not, companies are forced to bring in brand new capital equipment that is frequently left behind when the maze of bureaucratic regulations render the venture stillborn.

My recent correspondence with tiggrl of these boards only serves to confirm these lingering impressions. I cannot help but wish that there was some way to avoid a repetition of the Bhuj disaster when the next earthquake strikes the region. To that end I propose some solutions, for example:[ul]
[li]Construe large scale corruption as “Crimes Against Humanity” that are prosecutable in International criminal courts.[/li]
As the world’s political landscape increasingly tends away from large-scale warfare the International criminal court must readdress itself to other massive crimes against humanity. The vast scale of corruption in undeveloped countries often constitutes a form of mass murder when shortcomings in construction and oversight are bribed out of existence. Similar enforcement for criminal acts in the construction of large-scale pipelines, bridges or other structures that are capable of significant impact upon human life or the environment should qualify for these provisions as well.
[li]** Tie foreign monetary assistance to strict code adherence during reconstruction.[/li]
In order for countries to receive foreign aid when rebuilding after a disaster they must be bound to agreements stipulating their voluntary compliance with minimum uniform building codes. However much this may seem to be an intrusion upon a nation’s sovereignty, no country is bound or forced to accept outside economic aid. The necessity for qualifying recipients of financial assistance during reconstruction is repeatedly made obvious by the greatly magnified death tolls due to poor building practices. That the nations in question continue to suffer from endemic corruption all but assures future disaster when shoddy rebuilding is allowed to occur.
Implementation and prosecution of felony criminal charges for circumventing code restrictions.[/li]
Countries must be willing to institute legal recourse and punitive statutes to deter imbedded corruption. Any unwillingness to do so, or an ineffectual effort to apply such laws when needed should be answerable in the International criminal courts. Members of a country’s judicial system that turn a blind eye to corruption should be subject to similar prosecution commensurate with those directly engaged in it. Provisions for unhindered extradition for international prosecution must be part and parcel of such legislation. Strict prohibitions of conflict of interest must be made as well to avoid nepotistic practices and cronyism. Open bidding and other financially transparent business practices must be mandated to limit the opportunity for violations.
Third party confirmation of code compliance during and after reconstruction.[/li]
As with the oversight of elections in countries where Democracy’s advent is more recent, so should there be monitoring of internationally financed post-disaster reconstruction. Much of the millions of dollars currently flooding into India will be shunted into the pockets of corrupt officials. Skimping on the use of reinforcing materials will only guarantee that with the next inevitable earthquake the suffering and loss of life will begin all over again. The small extra cost of oversight will be saved tenfold in the avoidance of future death tolls and property losses. The regional economic repercussions alone vastly outweigh the cost of such monitoring.
Large rewards for turning in corrupt officials, inspectors, suppliers and contractors.**[/li]
A small portion of International economic aid should be used to fund a pool that creates rewards for the reporting of corruption. Such incentives would give additional pause to those engaged in the circumvention of proper building codes. Similarly, a Universal Building Code should also be established to assure equal World-Wide application of the law in such matters.[/ul]

Reformation of corrupt practices must begin somewhere. The international community’s efforts to assist these areas are being bled by the parasites who continue to perpetuate the current system of graft and bribery. If measures are not taken we will effectively sustain these criminal practices through our collective inaction. However much these proposals seem like an attempt to dictate how another country shall conduct its internal affairs, untold millions of dollars disappear into these repeated efforts to improve the quality of life in disaster areas.

I welcome input and comments on these proposals. Please share your opinions as to whether foreign aid should be tied to construction code compliance in order to prevent corruption and loss of life.

Geez. I stand in awe at the emergence of the Last Idealist. You don’t want much, do ya, kiddo? Just “fix the entire world and get rid of all the bad people”. Just “get rid of Sin and Evil and Death”. Golly.

And, um, Cultural Imperialism notwithstanding, maybe it’s none of our business? To make sure the entire world is safe and snug in their little beds?

And, golly, Zenster, we can’t even make sure our own citizens are safe and snug in their little beds. “First get rid of the beam that’s in your own eye, then you can see more clearly to remove the mote from your brother’s eye.”

But, hey, you wanna take on the Entire World, I’ll be happy to stand here and hold your jacket… :smiley:

Yes, it was unimaginably terrible . . . But every so often Mother Nature just decides to shake us off her coattails with earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, volcanoes, etc. It’s always happened and it always will happen. “Nature” doesn’t give a good goddam about 17,000 people more or less. Who today even remembers the horrific Japanese earthquake of the 1920s? The only reason we even know about Pompeii is because they were preserved in lava.

Just think of the lawsuits when The Big One hits in California . . .

Holy Toledo, Zenster. So, to sum up your OP, the large-scale destruction and loss of life in Gujarat is the fault of corrupt officials in India, and any aid other countries might send should granted with the proviso that there will be mass prosecution of Indian bureaucrats if they don’t resolve their corrupt ways.

Unfortunately, if you had any knowledge of seismic hazards & building codes at all, you would know that even places that enforce what is thought to be an adequate building code can be hit hard by a quake. Kobe, anyone?

Yes, there are most certainly special problems when it comes to trying to establish adequate building codes in seismic hazard areas, particularly in Third World countries that typically do not have enough money (corrupt officials or not) to make new construction up to code and retrofit old structures. And local authorities may well wish to consider criminal charges for developers who are found to have made particularly egregious building shortcuts that lead to unnecessary loss of life. However, most of your OP deals with the handling of corrupt bureaucrats, not builders, and your comment

has absolutely nothing to do with seismic hazards and building codes at all, but IMHO reveals your true motivation for this post. Complain in the pit about the failure of your business venture if you want, but please don’t try to hide your true feelings behind a veil of humanitarianism.

DDG, however much I respect your typical quality of post, I feel you could have done better this time. My motivations are not mere idealism. I make an effort to volunteer when disaster strikes. Whether it be offering to go in and shut down the semiconductor fabs during the 1989 California quake, sorting tons of food for the Berkeley hills fire or animal rescue from some the oil spills several years back. I do my best to put my money where my mouth is. My proposal is specifically designed to address the continuing and insidious practices that directly result in the unnecessary loss of human life.

Read the OP carefully Fillet. I propose putting in place deterrents to future corrupt practices, not a post facto witch hunt. My OP specifically mentions the construction industry as one of the primary targets for this action. The officials are mentioned as well because it is their job charter to protect the Indian people from shortcomings in construction practices. Intentionally failing to do so is egregious conduct and meritous of prosecution on the same level as the original perpetrators. Inspectors and the administrators who condone such corruption are accessories before the fact and not just on the sidelines.

Horse puckey. My own experience is merely an example of how the corrupt system serves to hold back the Indian people. It was not my business venture that failed. I was a contributor to my friend’s efforts to make it work. The ridiculous chicanery that I witnessed is what motivated me to add my own personal observations. I nearly left them out of the OP to begin with.

Sadly, a system crash wiped out all of my past email. I am hoping that tiggerl will drop in to enlighten all of you as to just how severe the problem is in India. She gave me permission to quote an excellent missive that vividly portrayed how bad it really is over there. I am hoping that she will resend it to me so that I may excerpt it here.

Yes Eve, earthquakes do damage. Yes, even the best structures can collapse because of that. Yes, there will always be some loss of life in such a natural catastrophe.

Then again, no, we do not need to send millions upon millions of dollars around the world to line the pockets of bottom feeders that would profit from the misery and endangerment of others. No, we do not need to stand idly by and watch the nearly intentional murder of thousands of people because a corrupt elite decides that their own welfare supercedes that of the people they serve. No, it is not moral or ethical to perpetuate graft and bribery by turning a blind eye to it.

In the Kobe quake, one of the major freeway collapses occurred because engineers purposely avoided using a dual legged freeway support design that would have withstood a quake much better. This was done solely because of the increased noise factor that the overcrowded local residents would have experienced. Despite their much vaunted claims, Japan too, suffers from elements of poor preparedness and construction.

Please also be kind enough to note that I have never had a venture in Mexico or Turkey, but that these countries would also be excellent candidates for reconstruction oversight. I have already mentioned that some of my proposals might seem to be intrusive upon a countries right to self government, so further mention of that is merely argumentative.

What none of you have done, so far, is to make any alternative suggestion as to how the international community can help to assure that foreign disaster aid is not absorbed by the very criminals that made a significant portion of it necessary.

It is very easy to snipe at what might seem an overarching proposal. I challenge any of you to come up with some other sort of workable plan that could help to abate the needless death and destruction that results from intentional substandard construction. All of you have failed to make any effort to do so.

I purposefully placed this OP in Great Debates so that competitive concepts could be held against the framework of ideas that I posited. Feel free to come up with some sort of original thought before merely attempting to shoot down one that you find fault with. Otherwise your posting is essentially meaningless.

The International criminal courts could and should have an active interest in this sort massive loss of life. It results from an intentional and atrocious crime and should be prosecuted as one. No one here seems to have any strong opposition to Milosovich’s war crimes indictment for the slaughter of so many Kosovars. Yet it seems that my proposal to avert similar slaughter is repellent because it requires some sort of intervention by the international community. Golly gee, isn’t that what is happening in the Balkans right now?

Offensive warfare is frequently a political action designed to achieve objectives regardless of the loss of human life. How much different is this description from the actions of the corrupt contractors and inspectors that allow rickety buildings to be occupied with the sure knowledge that they will present a guaranteed hazard to human life when it comes to the test? The corrupt system in India and other countries has a callous disregard for human life and should be place on an equal level with the atrocities currently prosecuted by the international courts.

I do not know if any of you have had the opportunity to work closely with people from other countries where human life is held in low esteem. I have talked with co-workers that describe the sudden “clean-up” of a town’s entire indigent population solely because they were deemed “undesirable” by the Mexican Federales. If you had direct contact with someone who had experienced such inhumanity, you might have a better appreciation of what I am talking about.

If all you wish to do is take potshots, start a pit thread and I’ll see you there. Otherwise, don’t piss in my ear and tell me that it’s raining.

By clean-up, I meant a mass grave.


You are talking about two completely different issues here.

  1. Adequate building codes to protect against seismic hazards - You do realize, don’t you, that there is no such thing as a standardized code for this purpose? Various authorities in areas at high risk (California & Japan, for instance) have spent years and a ton of money trying to come up with building designs that will withstand the largest projected quakes in a given region. Problems:
  • No one can really forecast just how large a future quake might be, or exactly how it will express itself in terms of horizontal and vertical ground motion. We can construct shaking tables to test scaled-down building designs, but no one can really tell how a given building will react until until a quake actually hits.
  • The restrictions placed by a building code are going to be dependent on the particular areas you’re talking about, because hazard is a function not only of distance from a known fault but of the underlying terrain (e.g., housing built on sandy substrate is at greater risk of collapse owing to the potential for liquefaction). The nature of the underlying terrain is not always well known, especially if you tend to have structures with shallow foundations, and finding out just what that is may not itself be an inexpensive process.
  • The task of making structures as earthquake-proof as possible has to be weighed against other factors such as materials cost, as well as the impact on quality of life issues, such as the case of the Kobe freeway collapse you mentioned. I am not a civil engineer, but I would think that such considerations go into the construction of any building, bridge, etc. Any engineers out there who can comment?
  • Making new buildings up to code is not the major consideration, btw, if your goal is to reduce loss of life generally - retrofitting of existing structures is. In addition to this cost (who’s paying, anyway?), we are still faced with the problem of not knowing whether the retrofit will stand up to a quake until it happens.

The quake in India resulted in a lot of building collapses that took a terrible toll on life, no question. An earthquake in Armenia in 1989 led to the deaths of about 25,000 people, also from building collapses. Better engineering and construction probably would have saved a lots of lives in both cases, but we will never really know just how many, because loss of life depends on more than just building design.

You cite one instance of a freeway in Kobe that collapsed as a result of poor design. That is not true for every last building and structure in Kobe that collapsed. This page points out quite nicely that other factors largely beyond human control also play a major role (e.g., the distance from the quake’s epicenter, underlying terrain, time of day, preparedness of the population to cope with disaster).

  1. Prevention of misuse or inefficient use of disaster relief funds - DDG’s answer may not have had the serious tone you were looking for, but she is absolutely correct. Unless you have a true one-world government, there is absolutely no way that you can abrogate a state’s sovereign rights in the manner you describe without precipitating a major problem of a different kind. And perhaps I’m a bit of a cynic, but I don’t see Western countries as necessarily behaving in the most honest and efficient manner if subjected to a disaster of the same magnitude.

One little thing you haven’t addressed here - if we are to make every possible building or other structure safe against seismic hazards, who is going to pay for it all? Sure, some aid will arrive in any stricken area after a quake, but said aid is usually intended to address the immediate needs of a stricken populace (food, water, temporary shelter), not begin reconstruction.

In short - I think you have conflated two separate issues here, and I still think that you are using the earthquake scenario as a front to vent about Indian bureacracy (immaterial whose failed business it was, exactly; you seem to have taken it very personally, at any rate). The goal of trying to design more earthquake-proof buildings is an admirable one, with many obstacles. However, deaths from an earthquake are in large part the result of a natural disaster beyond human control, so any comparison to the fighting in the Balkans is just silly.

It would be nice if we could avoid all unnecessary loss of life in relation to natural disasters, but it’s IMHO an unattainable goal. Making disaster aid contingent upon honesty in the government of other nations is completely untenable and IMHO anti-humantarian. I, for one, would prefer to send aid knowing that at least some of it will go where it’s supposed to, rather than withholding it entirely.

Sorry if you are disappointed with my unwillingness to build on your ideas, but I honestly don’t see the point in doing so. And frankly, it matters not to me how often you respond to natural disasters here at home - the tone of your insistent comments about India in particular (rather than problematic bureaucracies in general) leave a bad taste in my mouth, and I will not respond further to this thread.


It is possible that many nations are not as wealthy as the United States or Canada. Maybe they can’t afford to build things up to our standards.


Great. Then we can finally outlaw communism!!


Fantastic. We won’t allow them to build affordable shelter. Instead we’ll force them to be homeless so they’ll be better off.


A prize example of what I am talking about is the case in Cairo, Egypt. There, buildings have another story added to it even though the original design did not allow for it. They simply add more stories until the buildings frequently collapse.

As to India and Turkey, when there are voluntary violations of the existing building codes, you know that there is wrongdoing going on.

I am not advocating that all structures world wide meet the most demanding standards. That is so stringent as to be ridiculous. What I am saying is that we can easily arrive at a minimum standard so that people are not exposed to unreasonable danger.

To try and bring up how structural collapse depends on the magnitude and other properties of the earthquake itself is to belabor the obvious. There is no way to anticipate the properties of any given earthquake in any given area. However, there is someway to ensure that a bare minimum of reinforcement is present.

It seems ridiculous to spend millions in aid to rebuild an area only to have blantantly substandard construction occur all over again. Large scale construction of apartment blocks that flagrantly defy even the lowest standards are a form of premeditated murder and not much short of it.

Lighten up folks. Zenster’s ideas are maybe a bit out of reach at the moment, but you dis him as if he was handing out Charlie Brown Chistmas trees. He is obviously distressed about the tragedy in India, and how human greed and govermental neglect caused an aggravation and compounding of such a tragedy. Buildings were falling on a group of kids parading for God’s sake. It will take time to work out the problems, but sovereignty is no excuse for incompentence. There should be some punishment somehow for the ongoing violation of even the minimal building code standards. Not a central international tribunal, but regional ones around the world may help with the dispensing of advice and timely aid for countries that suffer from or have the potrential to suffer from similar natural disaters. The emergency money released should not be with strings attached; but it should be tracked.

Now, you may take issue of how Zenster portrayed India and its government, but this is a country that is known for, when a train derails, the train crew sometimes running away before they were to report to the authorities. Zenster is saying that officials, anywhere, looking the other way while boundless corruption occurs, or participating in the corruption, are inviting disasters to exacerbate in their region.
Zenster, I disagree with some of the things you have said, but I share your mourning for the people suffering in this tragedy. As for the others, I don’t know what to say. My comments are better off in the Pit.

Many farads to you Cap.

Even if my proposal was 100% percent cold blooded it still makes sense to encourage responsible delegation of recovery funding, if only to increase its monetary efficacy.

You are also the first to make a decent suggestion in line with the OP. I maintain that even with the cost of operations penciled in, the oversight committee could pay for itself in rapid order. Use of the Peace Corps in conjunction with Red Cross might be a good start.

The only reason why I mention the International war crimes court is that it is a widely recognized leagal body that has the appropriate jurisdiction. It already has the abilty to estop heinous conduct. In the modern world crimes against humanity assume a different modus operandi. Large-scale environmental crimes have already become reality. The cedars of Lebanon and the Dalmatian coast have both been raped in a form of eco-terrorism in order to ruin tourism appeal.

If humanity united remains unable to focus any consequence upon such flagrant malignancy what hope should any of us have for the future?


I think some of us gave legitimate reasons for being against his proposal. I’d like to address the cost of making homes “up to standards” and what those standards are exactly. Many people in India cannot afford to purchase expensive homes. What about them?


So make widescale corruption a “crime against humanity?” That’s kinda silly don’t you think?


They probably fell on a lot of adults as well.


I think India can work out their problems on their own.


Regional? So regional to India would be China, Pakistan, Nepal, Afghanistan, and for good measure we’ll throw in Viet-Nam, Japan, and North/South Korea. You’ll excuse me if I don’t trust nations like China, Afghanistan, or North Korea to help oversee such a tribunal.


I wouldn’t doubt if there was a bunch of corruption there. Although I admit my knowledge of Indian culture and government is very very limited.


I doubt that it was all the officals cost. Like I said how much would it cost to build housing in India that was up to cost? How many of those people could afford such housing in India?


We’ll ignore the fact that you may be using the word “cost” to stand in for a few other meanings, (like “fault” and “code”.) Maybe we’ll even attempt to disregard the fact that officials in public service are bound to a higher standard of professional conduct than private individuals.

Fer cryin’ out stinkin’ loud. Read my virtual lips!

A piece of rebar every foot isn’t too much to ask now, is it? We are no longer talking about building flipping grass huts! As this world becomes increasingly urbanized, populations concentrate. Structures are built for the purpose of holding mass quantities of human life. At least they should have some negligible chance of withstanding more than minor shocks.

I’m not talking about wide-scale distributed low level corruption. I’m referring to contractors of major housing or civil engineering projects (a failed dam maybe?) that knowingly engage in the shorting of specifications.

Get a clue and paint it red! You are disingenously diffusing the argument into an irrelevant broad based and unrelated comparison. And, no, I do not think that the prosecution of crimes against humanity is “silly”. You just happen to feel like diverting the topic to a less significant example.

Yes, countries can work out their own problems. That does not necessarily mean taht we aren’t obligated to stop tacit support of outmoded and antiquated administrative systems.

Ever heard of a search engine?

::stomps off to go find tiggeril::

capacitor, I don’t think any of the respondents to this thread are unsympathetic to the loss of life. However, I am simply amazed at some of the ignorant things Zenster is saying in his campaign to relieve the world of corruption.

This passage is a prime example:

First of all, there is NO SUCH THING as a “uniform minimum acceptable standard” for making earthquake-proof buildings, because the minimum requirements will depend on the seismic hazard of the region in question. Sorry if I was “belaboring the obvious” in describing how structural collapse depends on a number of factors, but it’s an obvious point that you seem to have missed, and it most certainly has a bearing on the issues you raise. Some parts of India have an extremely low hazard, as far as we know; others areas are at high risk. What uniform building code would you specify?

Second, a “piece of rebar every foot” doesn’t make a building earthquake-proof. Steel-reinforced concrete will fail just as nicely if the building doesn’t include things like floating foundations, inertial dampers, special building frame designs or the like. We’re not talking about a simple patch here.

Third, where in creation did you get the idea that the Gujarat quake was a minor shock? Did you even bother to read the news accounts of the survivors’ experiences? :rolleyes:

Then we have statements such as the following:

Good grief! I think you would be hard-pressed to sound more arrogant, insulting and paternalistic. Guess what, Zenster? In some of the past quakes in Turkey, for example, the simple traditional homes made of mud brick held up better than the modern buildings because their construction was based on thousands of years’ familiarity with the consequences of earthquakes. To borrow a phrase of your own, get a clue and paint it red!

BTW, the Indians have already taken their own measures against those believed to have engaged in criminal activity re: building construction. Please read this page for those specifics and other information about the quake and its aftermath. Please also note this line in the report:

For the sake of argument, let’s say that we will require all structures in moderate to severe seismic hazard zones (any area colored yellow to red or brown in this map) to withstand an earthquake of at least Mw = 6.5. You have so far failed to address a key issue that both MGibson and I have raised: where will the money come from to build structures that are up to this sort of code? And what about retrofit of existing buildings - shouldn’t that count, too?

capacitor, you proposed tracking financial aid given to countries hit by disaster. That’s all well in theory, but how do you suggest this be achieved practically? Require officials to provide receipts? Send a UN observer in to monitor everyone who needs to handle money during the relief process? Or perhaps just have Western representatives handle all the money themselves? :rolleyes:

BTW, there’s no need to go running off to find tiggerl on my behalf or anyone else’s. I have friends who live and work in India, and I’m going there myself shortly, so I know very well what doing business there can be like. Yes, there is corruption… can you name a country in the world that doesn’t have any?

But since you’re so adept with a search engine, and to “educate” me and others apparently not in the know, please find some cites supporting the following statements:

  1. "Sadly, a significant chunk of this [disaster relief] aid [sent to India] will disappear into the pockets of corrupt administrators, officials and the contractors involved in the reconstruction.
  2. “For those who are unfamiliar with the Indian economy, it remains on of the most corrupt in the entire world. Mexico pales in comparison to the outdated and graft riddled economic infrastructure that the Subcontinent is saddled with.”
  3. “The cedars of Lebanon and the Dalmatian coast have both been raped in a form of eco-terrorism in order to ruin tourism appeal.”
  4. Millions of dollars sent to disaster-struck regions are typically used to rebuild housing and other structures, rather than to provide short-term supplies of food, water, and shelter.

Hint: If you can’t find cites for the first three items, I’ll settle for just the fourth. I’d like to know how much money has been earmarked for donation toward the rebuilding of permanent structures in stricken areas, as opposed to temporary fixes. You keep saying that so much of this money has been wasted in the past; I’m curious to know what the figures are.

I understand Zenster’s concerns, but I agree with the many who have pointed out that he may not be appreciating how difficult something as seemingly simple as building codes can be.

Zen, you said:

Actually, we are. I’ll confine my remarks to the conditions in Nepal because I am aware of these first hand, though the conditions in much of India are the same. The vast majority of the populatioon live in rural villages. They build their homes out of whatever is available locally–in many areas, that means dry-laid rock covered with a mixture of mud, dung and straw. It wouldn’t stand up to the Three Little Pigs, much less an earthquake. How would you deal with this? Should the building codes only apply to urban centers?

And let’s say we do that. As others have pointed out, few people could afford the cost of a house built to higher building standards. In Nepal, the few (VERY few) who have money to erect apartment and office buildings are, of course, in the business to make money. If the higher building costs result in rents that no one can afford to pay or even if they significantly reduce the profit the owner can make, there will be no construction industry. I don’t fault them for this in the least. They, like everyone else, are in business to make money. I should also point out that when I speak of these “real estate tycoons” in Nepal, it is important to understand that they are not the rich, corporate fat cats you may be imagining. By American standards, they would be middle class. To you, it’s a few feet of rebar. To a Nepali, $3 a month more rent means they don’t eat. There is a tremendous need for affordable housing and I believe that if you asked the opinion of people living there, they would chose to hedge their bets against a natural disaster rather than finding themselves unable to afford housing.

There is also the problem of how to go about building structures that are to “code”, whatever that may turn out to be. First, there is the lack of skilled workers. In Nepal, over 40% of the population have never attended school a day in their lives. Those that have attended school for any significant amount of time are not working on construction sites. So you’re stuck with a crew who cannot read instructions nor can they understand the importance of putting in 3 bolts instead of 2. The guy reading the blue prints might be an engineer, but his degree from Tribhuvan University wouldn’t get him a cup of coffee in the developed world, and with good reason. Then there’s the problem of equipment. They haven’t got much and what they do have is very old. I admittedly don’t know much about the construction trade, but American construction sites are loaded with what I assume is necessary equipment. At a Nepali site, there is usually a couple of bamboo ladders and some buckets.

As for corrupt officials I agree that is a problem. But we would be treading on a nation’s sovreignity if we started to dictate how they handle their politics. Right now in Nepal there is a big scandal because the Prime Minister got a huge kick-back on a deal he slipped through with a foreign airline. We are not taking about a few building inspectors accepting payoffs. Graft is a deeply ingrained part of many of these political systems going all the way to the top. India and Nepal are both democratic societies with free elections, free press and freedom of speech. The people know what the problems are and they are dealing with it their own way. We have no business interfering with their political processes uninvited, and I don’t hear them asking for our help.

Zenster, I think your heart is in the right place, but like so many things, what works in America is completely impractical in the Third World.

{fixed bold. --Gaudere}

[Edited by Gaudere on 02-11-2001 at 10:35 PM]

Zenster, I’m afraid I don’t have my Hotmail account set to save outgoing messages, so what’s lost is lost.

That being said, I’m a bit surprised and a touch perturbed that you put so much weight on what I said in that email, which I thought I made clear to you were just the impressions and opinions of a person of Indian heritage.

Corruption is a large and widespread problem in India. Ridding the nation of this disease will take more than one fell swoop using a tribunal, whether it be global or regional. It is very easy to remove the offending powers-that-be. It is considerably more difficult to change the underlying mindset, that being that if you want something done with the utmost expediency and effort, you must kick in a little “extra.” That “extra” being an extra stack or two of rupees, or half of your next crops, or what have you, depending on the region of the country you’re in.

Re: building codes, I think you’re focusing too much on the codes themselves. People view construction work very differently “over there” than they do in the States. It’s seen as menial labor for the uneducated or for those who will never see the opportunities for better work. As a result, the builders, and, for the most part, the foremen, can’t follow a blueprint, but work on verbal orders. To remedy this, India needs to begin with a complete reorganization of the construction industry, the educational system, societal norms, the economy, along with a list of other factors which my tired brain can’t come up with right now. Do you see? It’s not a self-contained problem. Tweaking one subcomponent of a factor which is a part of a larger whole will not fix the whole.

Bear in mind that India as an independent nation is all of 53 years old. 53 years. My father is older than his nation. Consider that carefully. There is no doubt that India will outgrow the Third World. It will take time. It will take effort. It will take loss of life. But it will happen.

Okay. It’s June of 1995.
See the Sampoong Department Store, in Seoul, South Korea. It was built with sub-standard construction. It collapses. Estimate of the total number of dead range from 300 to 600.

See the local power structure deal with it all by itself.,5716,123027,00.html

By September of 1995, see the ripple effect. See the local power structure continue to deal with it by itself.

See the Ozone disco fire in Manila. See the local power structure deal with it by itself. See the repercussions continue to reverberate. See the local power structure continue to deal with it by itself.

See people in Third World nations deal with it. All by themselves. See it be a valuable learning experience.

This is because so far, none of us feels that the international community has either the right or the obligation to do so. I don’t remember hearing a big outcry from North Korea when the Sampoong Department Store collapsed. I didn’t hear Mexico on the evening news doing a lot of hand-wringing over the Ozone disco fire. “We must put a stop to these tragedies…”

Sorry, babe, it’s not that we haven’t tried, 'kay? :slight_smile: It’s just that we all spent a minute or two mulling it over in our minds and for various reasons, came to the conclusion that the whole idea was so unworkable as to not even merit spitballing a solution. I mean, hey, even EGKelly with his “let’s conquer Siberia!” thread gets a look-in, but in the end, I don’t think he got many helpful suggestions from people, either. :smiley:

You’re talking about international blackmail. “Everything up to code or no more handouts from the International Monetary Fund”, is that it? Okay, here’s how it would work. The IMF committee says to South Korea, “No more substandard buildings.” South Korea shrugs and says, “Okay.” The IMF gives them the money. Another Seoul department store collapses due to substandard construction. The IMF says, “Hey, you said you weren’t gonna build any more substandard department stores.” South Korea shrugs and says, “So sue me.” What’s the IMF gonna do, make 'em give the money back?

Geez, Zenster, worldwide there are so many countries defaulting on IMF and World Bank loans that it isn’t even funny. And what the does the IMF do whenever a country defaults on a loan? They give them some more money. Every time. Like clockwork.

So how is this gonna work, IRL? Not at all, say I.

And then we can look at who exactly sits on this international tribunal that you’re proposing. Is North Korea going to vote to hold South Korea to much stricter standards than, say, India? Of course. Is South Korea going to resent it? Absolutely. And when it’s South Korea’s turn to be on the tribunal, is South Korea going to return the favor and vote to hold North Korea to much stricter standards than, say, India? Is the Pope Catholic? Is this going to cause friction? Does Britney Spears think she’s cute?

Oh, but now you’re saying, “Oh, it wouldn’t be like that, there would be a universally accepted standard.” Yeah, just like there’s a universally accepted standard for the electricity that comes out of the wall? Is it 110 or 220 where you live? Just like there’s a universally accepted standard for the width of railroad tracks? A universally accepted standard for safe handling of raw fish? For women’s rights? For what side of the road you can drive on?

Come on, the United Nations has been working on universally accepted standards for the really rock-bottom basic things like clean water and health care for over 50 years, and they STILL haven’t got it right. How do you expect the World Community to somehow come up with universal standards for building construction? Sure, everybody agrees, “Oh that would be nice”, but here’s the clincher–how are you going to enforce them? Make them give the money back? Send in the U.N.? They can’t even “enforce” Bosnia, or Rwanda, or any of a dozen global hot spots. Are we going to have the global equivalent of Traffic Court? Judge Judy hollering at South Korea, “G’wan, get outta here, judgement for the plaintiff for 12 billion dollars…”? And the IMF walking out with a smirk on its face?

And so far, it’s working so well… :rolleyes:

So, as if it’s not bad enough that I’m ultimately going to have to pay for the failure of World Bank-underwritten dam projects in the Amazon–now it’s also going to be MY problem if South Korea builds more substandard department stores and simply shrugs and refuses to give the IMF’s money back?

I mean, I’m sorry if that sounds heartless, but I think they need to figure out how to make this work by themselves. How long does Uncle Sam have to keep holding their hand?

First, re Cairo:

Hmm, I live here. True, there are issues with adding stories, with sub-standard adherance to code etc. These are as often driven by poverty, lack of resources and immense population pressure as corruption per se. An international tribunal is not going to solve these any more than UN supervision of Florida elections will solve their problems. Your grasp of the role and reach of international organizations is weak at best.

*Originally posted by Duck Duck Goose *

You’re thinking of World Bank. IMF lends for monetary policy reasons, not for development projects (in general).

Substituting World Bank for IMF above, they can of course, like any lending institution, simply cut Korea off. That of course may not do anything to solve the problem.

Mind you, everyone should be able to recall this sort of law is often local in application so the national government may or may not have authority over it. Look at the USA. Frankly Zenster’s ideas are utterly whack.

Ah, DDG, I believe the characterization above is a gross exageration, although in spirit I agree with you. In any case, restructing loans is often better than default. If the borrower defaults pure and simple then your liklihood of repayment goes down drastically.

The irony is that both the World Bank and the IMF have programs and oversight mechanisms in place to help minimize corruption in programs they oversee. However, national sovereignty is a touchy thing – my fellow Americans’ ludicrous fear of the UN a case in point. Now take a country with a real basis for fear for its sovereignty…

There’s no need. There is no way such a tribunal would ever get off the ground. Even the ICJ has had trouble with a relatively defined set of powers. Note good old USA is among those with serious reservations. Frankly, when push came to shove, it is likely the USA would be at the forefront of opposition to Zenster’s silly project.

Ah, DDG, your sources leave something to be desired. These are folks with less than warm feelings for the IMF and World Bank.

Do you have substantive numbers for your implication that World Bank is near insolvency? Both it and IMF are largely self-funded and have very conservative investment portfolios. There’s no need to critique Zenster’s foolish proposal with exagerated gloom and doom critiques of the IMF and World Bank.