Where are the com­mu­nity cen­tres?

JAB ALP UR BHU KUT JIN CH MAGNI TUDE KILL ARI, SAST UR AND RAJE GAON MAGNI TUDE

HT Estates - - HT­ES­TATES -

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.

Quake-re­sis­tant dwellings

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.

Other pre­cau­tions

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.

THINK­STOCK

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