Ensure safety before disaster strikes
1 Colonies in the Capital, regularised by the government sometime back, are vulnerable to quakes and fires as rules have been violated to build residential structures here
Narrow lanes wide enough for only local rickshaws to pass through, floors of a building balanced on floating walls (constructed to shift slightly when the floor or ceiling within the space expands or contracts.
Plates along the bottom of the framing make it possible for the structure to move up and down and accommodate contractions or expansions without creating any cracks in the surfacing of the wall), uneven upper floors, no gaps between buildings, hightension wires loosely hanging over a busy lane - these are but some of the things that characterise unauthorised colonies which have been regularised later in Delhi NCR. As the Capital sits on seismic zone IV, the government should give priority to identifying and strengthening such structures.
One way street
Buildings in these areas are generally constructed on both sides of a narrow lane that are often blocked with parked vehicles or building materials in such a manner that even two rickshaws cannot simultaneously pass through, forget an ambulance or a fire tender!
Most buildings with a first floor have a five to six-feet projection or a horizontal extension. The other floors are constructed on such overhangs as floating walls that can prove to be dangerous in the event of an earthquake. Most importantly, building byelaws do not have any provisions in place for buildings with such covered area extensions.
In most cases, there is no gap between buildings because construction is allowed on a full plot area with provisions for front and back setbacks (which is the required separation between a right-of-way line and a building or structure). In these areas, the entire plot area is covered and even the upper floors are not constructed uniformly. This unevenness is bound have a disastrous impact during an earthquake.
Moreover, even the drains, if they exist, are either open or do not have a proper gradient. Most of them overflow even if it rains for a few hours. During the monsoons sewage and accumulated rain water can prove to be a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Besides, there is also no way by which the drainage capacity of the existing system can be measured. If this was possible, the issue of cleanliness could have been taken care of to a great extent.
The high-tension wires/transformers are akin to a bomb that can go of any time. Most colonies in Delhi are termed as unauthorised and therefore constructions in these areas are not regulated as per byelaws. There is also no guarantee that all constructions in authorised areas have been monitored by qualified construction agencies/engineers.
All these elements will continue to be a part and parcel of most localities in Delhi NCR until yet another devastating earthquake sends a reminder that disaster safety measures are the need of the hour and so are safe houses .
The massive growth of illegal, unapproved and risky residential and commercial structures can be controlled by enhancing availability of planned and organised housing.
But that perhaps may not be feasible primarily due to high land prices. This is the reason why much of the planned and affordable housing stock has come up in UP and Haryana.
If states come forward and make efforts to launch housing schemes periodically, many more people will not risk their lives and go for risky structures in unathorised areas.