Published: 29th May 2017
He wrote to the NDMA way before the 2015 Nepal earthquake about the high threat of earthquakes in the Himalayas!
Dr Sreevalsa Kolathayar might be the only person who wrote to the NDMA about the risks before the 2008 earthquakes. Read on to find out more about his measures to get people prepared for earthquakes
Earthquakes generally don’t kill people. It’s the poor infrastructure that takes lives. When a high magnitude earthquake hits California, there are hardly any casualties, as it all comes down to the sturdiness of the buildings,” explains Dr Sreevalsa Kolathayar, Assistant Professor and Research Coordinator, Department of Civil Engineering at Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, Coimbatore, who had even written to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) way before the 2015 Nepal earthquake about the high threat of earthquakes in the Himalayas. Sreevalsa, who was always a bright student, has been teaching from the age of fourteen.
“I was studying in a government school when I was given the opportunity to move to a Navodaya Vidyalaya School in the same area. From then on, I was teaching children in my village,” says the 31-year-old, who has co-authored Preparing for Earthquakes: Lessons for India alongside his mentor T G Sitharaman, which was earlier released in twelve Indian languages but is now expected to be published by a US publishing house.
We’ve been trying to get the government’s attention towards high-risk areas which are geographically more prone to earthquakes
Dr. Sreevalsa Kolathayar Assistant Professor and Research Coordinator
After his Civil Engineering degree from Government Engineering College, Thrissur, this professor started his own company, Ignited Minds along with a few friends. But soon enough, he knew that teaching was his calling. He did his master’s at IIT Kanpur, where he was also actively participating in the social activities of the college like volunteering and teaching in the villages nearby. While pursuing his Ph.D. at Indian Institute of Science (IISC) Bangalore, he met his professor Sitharam, who has been his biggest source of inspiration and that’s the start of his fascination towards earthquake preparedness.
Meant-to-be: He started his company alony with his friends, but later, realised that he is meant to teach
During his doctorate on earthquake hazard preparedness, he was the Chairman of the IISC Students Council and even spent two months at the Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya (UPC) commonly called BarcelonaTech, as an international research staff. “After I returned, I joined Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad but at that time the Civil Engineering department was being set-up, so I helped out. But I knew that administrative work isn’t for me. That’s when I helped Ramakrishna Mission set-up a school in Chapi, a small village in Ranchi,” explains Sreevalsa.
He says that the state that’s rich in natural resources also has many children who have the capacity to be some of the brightest minds in the country. “Alcohol is the main reason why these children don’t get the education they deserve. Many teenagers get the wrong guidance and even the parents don’t do much,” explains the professor.
Worksop works: He conducts character building workshops fo the students
He says that they used to conduct character building workshops for the students that teach them to be financially independent and recover from drug and alcohol addiction. “We trained two students to handle the classes on their own before I left and a student of mine, who I am still in touch with, got into organic farming and is now doing very well,” says Sreevalsa proudly. He finds that education is key to fighting against Naxal activity in those areas.
After joining Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham in 2015, he’s been pivotal in mentoring research projects of his students. He even helped them in developing a mobile app called BhookampRaksha that works to give any commoner an assessment of his/her preparedness for an earthquake and what safety measures needs to be taken.