Improving Seismic Safety for the Tibetan Community in Dharamshala

Location: Dharamsala, Tibet
Time frame: 2006-2009

The Problem

The Tibetan community in Dharamsala, India is exposed to high earthquake risk. Dharamsala is located in the Himalayan foothills, close to the active earthquake fault where the devastating M7.8 Kangra earthquake occurred in 1905. Most of the structures in McLeod Ganj, the area that is now the center of the region’s large Tibetan community, were destroyed in the 1905 earthquake. The entire area is at significant risk of future earthquake damage.


GHI’s Response

Following a fact-finding mission in May 2006, the Flora Family Foundation gave GHI a grant to perform an initial seismic assessment of the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives (LTWA) campus and other structures of importance in the Upper Dharamsala area. The assessment was performed by a team of GHI engineers and additional specialists in September, 2006. The assessment team found numerous earthquake vulnerabilities that endanger the Tibetan community’s efforts to preserve their cultural heritage. Scholars and artisans live in seismically vulnerable brick and concrete buildings. Tibetan children attend school in potentially vulnerable buildings. A number of cultural and historical treasures are currently at risk in the LTWA main library building and the Tsuglag Khang complex.


GHI reported these findings and received generous additional support from the Flora Family Foundation to begin addressing the earthquake risks at the LTWA. GHI worked with the library leadership to develop appropriate engineering measures to protect the main library building, its occupants, and its collections; and developed a plan to integrate seismic safety improvements with the library’s future facilities needs. GHI also worked with members of the library community to increase awareness of earthquake risks and how to reduce those risks. This community includes monks, library staff, and the families of library staff.

Long-Term Outcome

Geshe Lhakdor, Administrator of the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, showing the GHI assessment team one of the oldest manuscripts in the library collection.

  • The project provided a model for strengthening other vulnerable structures in the community and for broader efforts to improve the earthquake safety of the Tibetan people in India. GHI’s employees continue to work with the School Disaster Management Committee in Dharamshala to carry out earthquake safety drills, as part of a comprehensive earthquake risk reduction program.

  • The project’s assessment team transferred knowledge regarding earthquake-resistant building construction, reviewing and advising on proposed construction plans to expand the existing LWTA complex.