Delhi sitting on a ticking time bomb
Buildings will not be able to withstand a 6 magnitude quake, say experts
Amajority of buildi ngs i n Delhi are “cancerous” and no structural modification can ensure their safety.” Chandan Ghosh, professor and head of the geohazard risk management division, National Disaster Management Institute ( NDMI), who conducted a study on the structural safety of 10,000 buildings in east Delhi after the Lalita Park building collapse tragedy, had recommended that most of the structures in east Delhi be pulled down and replaced with new buildings as there was no way to make the existing buildings safe. Delhi is part of a high-risk seismic zone. The city had experienced a deadly earthquake in 1720 but the extent of damage had been minimised because of a smaller population. Another earthquake of magnitude 6 on the Richter scale had hit Delhi in 1960 but again the damage was restricted as the illegal urban sprawl was not as extensive as it is today.
“According to geoscientists, the earthquake cycle rotates and it’s predicted that Delhi may experience a major earthquake once in 250 to 300 years. Despite the imminent danger, we are not at all serious about the building safety standards in Delhi. The tremors that we have experienced in the last few years are mild ones with three or four on the Richter scale,” says Binod Kumar Singh, head, department of civil engineering, Al-Falah School of Engineering and Technology.
Singh is on the MCD panel of structural safety experts and alleges that both the people and government agencies are flouting building safety norms. “Delhi has approximately 32 lakh buildings out of which 90% don’t adhere to structural safety norms so they are vulnerable to any natural disaster. An earthquake measuring 6 or more on the Richter scale can lead to a disaster of unimaginable proportions in the city,” says Singh. “Due to greed, people are compromising on building safety. Even many structural safety engineers, empanelled with MCD are approving unsafe buildings. It’s a very serious issue,” he alleges.
A civil engineer empanelled with the MCD alleges that people also want to complete a building as soon as possible “because they have to pay a monthly bribe to MCD officials and beat constables till construction work continues.”