Where are the community centres?
JAB ALP UR BHU KUT JIN CH MAGNI TUDE KILL ARI, SAST UR AND RAJE GAON MAGNI TUDE
arthquakes are admittedly the most disastrous of all the natural calamities, bringing about large-scale destruction in a matter of a few seconds. In recent years, Latur and Osmanabad districts of Maharashtra witnessed an earthquake of magnitude 6.2. Striking on September 30, 1993 in the early morning hours, the tremblor razed to the ground several villages like Killari, Sastur and Rajegaon, leading to the loss of over 10,000 lives. The reason was that the houses were built with boulders brought from t he villagers’ fields and stacked one upon another with only mud i n between to act as a binder.
Republic Day in 2001 in the town of Bhuj in Kutch saw a very strong quake of magnitude 8.0 wreaking havoc in many villages like Anjar. An estimated 25,000 people perished in the disaster. Here again only blocks of sandstones were used in construction with mud to act as mortar, though Bhuj was known to be highly seismic.
In between, Jabalpur in M adhya Pradesh on t he banks of the Narmada, was hit by an earthquake on May 22, 1997, very similar to the Latur event, but the casualty figure was only 59 due to the proper construction of the buildings, part of the city being an army cantonment. It is clear, therefore, that only appropriate construction of houses will minimise the death toll because collapsing parts of buildings are in fact responsible for the casualties, people running out in panic getting caught below the falling blocks. If the structures stay put where they have been erected, no damage will occur.
How then to make our dwellings resistant to earthquakes? It is nothing impossible and in fact techniques of earthquake-resistant construction were known even in the 1930s in undivided India. The Railway Bungalow on the Lytton Road in Quetta (now in Pakistan) survived the Quetta Earthquake of 1935 since it was built using such techniques as reported by the late Dr W D West, a renowned seismic geologist of the Geological Survey of India. An ordinary building nearby collapsed completely.
Earthquakes occur when pressures that have been accumulating in the rocks of the earth’s crust over a long period get suddenly released when their ultimate bearing strengths are exceeded and they cannot withstand the stresses any longer. The rocks then fail by rupturing, releasing the pent-up energy and that is when the earth literally quakes, sending different kinds of vibrations or waves. Those which pass through the surface at a great speed tend to topple the buildings which are not built to withstand the enormous force. The release of the built-up pressure is so instantaneous that destruction is brought about within ten or fifteen seconds. It is this suddenness that makes the earthquakes the deadliest of all the disasters.
Methods of construction
Several methods of quakeproof construction of all types of structures are readily available today in the Standard Specifications of Building Codes formulated by experts and carried in government publications. These techniques of ‘aseismic designing’ as they are called, introduce a high degree of flexibility in the buildings and make them capable of withstanding the preassures of earthquakes.
Seismic structures do not break or crack in the middle. The buildings are made to behave like a ‘monolith’ — a single entity — with all the storeys acting together and putting up a united front. In the simplest design, this is accomplished by literally tying up the roofs, walls and floors of the different storeys using thin steel liner plates, about 5 cm wide and a centimetre thick in the form of diagonal cross-bracings during construction. Needless to mention that high quality cement concrete with proper reinforcements have to be used.
The other precautions that need to be taken are: 1. Avoiding differential loading of the buildings in the various floors. This is important because each structure is designed for a certain ‘dead’ load and ‘live’ load and if these are disturbed by adding huge ornamental features or installation of heavy machinery the response of the buildings to the earthquake vibrations will be drastically affected. Even the balconies need to be kept clutter free. In other words, they should never be used as dumping grounds. 2. Buildings have to be imparted/reinforced with natural periods of oscillation (that are quite dif f erent f rom thje oscillation periods of earthquakes) and this can be acheived through carefully planned constructions. Both the periods of oscillation should not coincide because it has been established that if they do then a total collapse is eminent. The natural periods of the earthquakes can be known from the seismograms and building vibrators help us to understand the likely natural periods with which the buildings will oscillate. Finally, it will be safe to avoid constructing skyscrapers in seismic zones because their stability cannot be guaranteed even with the best of earthquake-resistant designs. This has been proved through research. regional plans. The Regional Plan- 2021 approved and notified on November 2005 stipulated strict control over land use. It said land use had to be in accordance with the regional plan and sub-regional plan. GDA had no power to determine and change land use within the development area without permission from NCRPB.
Urban development experts say that land conversion for community to residential use is a serious problem in Delhi NCR. The reason they say is corruption in development authorities and developers’ greed to make a lot of money.
Office bearers of various RWAs in Noida, Faridabad and Gurgaon also say there are many cases of encroachment of common areas within group housing projects which hamper the development of community facilities such as park, community centre, play grounds etc.
Rahul Rathod, an advocate in Noida, says, “A common practice in Noida is to grant additional floor area (FAR) to a developer when more than 50% of apartments have been sold and construction work in the project has begun. At this stage, when a developer gets the authority’s approval to cover more area for construction, he targets areas ear marked for community centres, clubs, playgrounds etc. Developers don’t want to leave any room for social infrastructure because it reduces their profit margin. This practice is completely against the provisions of the Uttar Pradesh Apartment Act 2010. However, development authorities have turned a blind eye to the provision.”
Community centres are important. Many town planners say places of common use are needed in societies as people need to use them for games, voting booths, community meetings, community dinners, marriage celebrations, art exhibitions, talent shows and much more. “Social infrastructure is a valuable asset for a community, in that it gets neighbours together for the good of the community, fighting social causes for a crime- free, socially active and healthy neighbourhood. It’s sad to note that a real estate destination like Indirapuram or its nearby areas of Vaishali or Kaushambi do not have any government hospitals or schools, forcing locals to visit expensive private hospitals and send their children to private schools that charge a high fee. In the absence of social infrastructure and facilities residents do not feel any sense belonging in the city,” says Pradeep Mishra, CMD, Rudrabhishek Enterprises, an urban planning firm.