Grant: In the next five years, engineers will evaluate seismic risks of composite masonry buildings, develop a technology to strengthen composite masonry buildings and promote the technology.

The exercise is part of the five-year Science and Technology Research Partnership for Sustainable Development (SATREPS) project that will begin from April next year.

The agreement for the project worth USD 3 million was signed between Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) chief representative Koji Yamada and Gross National Happiness Commission secretary Thinley Namgyel earlier this week.

JICA’s technical assistance, promoting international joint research, is collaboration between Japan’s Science and Technology Agency and the Bhutanese agencies.

The project aims to build the capacity of the responsible disaster management, culture departments under home ministry and engineering services department in works and human settlement ministry for seismic disaster mitigation of composite masonry buildings in the country.

Koji Yamada said that the SATREP project plays a important role in fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals.

Developing countries sought free or low cost access to science, technology and innovations. On the other hand, developed countries disagreed citing huge investments during the development of the knowledge.

He said given the importance of the project the employees involved in research project need to continue until the end of the project.

The findings from project will be integrated in policy for better buildings in the country.

An earthquake of 6.1 magnitude on the Richter scale in September 2009 killed twelve people and damaged about 4,614 houses in the neighbouring dzongkhags.

About 446 houses were rendered beyond repair and 1,012 houses required major repairs. Most of them were composite masonry houses. Since then the government trained artisans including masons in the eastern dzongkhags where the damage was extensive.

GNHC secretary Thinley Namgyel said that government is looking at using trained masons and the new technology to build stronger homes.

Tshering Palden