Retrofitting not the only solution
In a study undertaken by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) after the Lalita Park tragedy in which 70 lives were lost, it was revealed that most buildings located in unauthorised/ regularised colonies near the area could not be retrofitted as the structures were extremely weak.
“The only option left was to construct new structurally safe buildings, but the question was who would bear the cost,” says Balwinder Kumar, vice chairman, DDA.
To encourage people to come forward to redevelop existing buildings, Kumar suggests that the redevelopment policy should be made attractive and have more incentives.
In the Mangolpuri and Sultanpuri upgradation project undertaken by micro home solutions,“while 12 houses were rebuilt and upgraded to about two storeys each, the remaining six were retrofitted. This means that retrofitting is not the answer for all the dwellings. Whether a house needs to be reconstructed or retrofitted is generally decided on a case by case basis,” says Swati Janu of micro home solutions (mHS).
Shahana Sheikh, research associate, Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, says that there is a tendency to overbuild in resettlement colonies. However, if one looks at the allotment letters given at the time of resettlement/relocation, usually the specifics of what is allowed to be built is not mentioned. Instead, a number of other conditions are mentioned: such as the plot being for only residential use, and that it cannot be sold or rented, etc.
The Master Plan of Delhi ( MPD) 2021 sets out guidelines for the preparation of layout plans under various regulations,including norms for facilities and circulation system. The same appears as part of The Building Regulations for Special Area, Unauthorised Regularised Colonies and Village Abadis 2010. The Building Department of the MCD monitors the building activities in resettlement colonies.
Anil Kumar of National Forum for Housing Rights (NFHR), a coalition of independent organisations and housing rights activists across India, the focus of which is on forced evictions; in situ upgradation and rehabilitation, points out that the so-called unsafe structures are homes for the poor, who have built them with their meagre earnings.
“Unsafe houses and habitations are the result of lack of adequate and affordable housing in our city. The government has not bothered to provide the poor with proper housing in spite of the huge shortage of houses (26.53 million houses in urban areas alone in India). The houses meant for the poor are generally built in far-away places outside the city, depriving them of their right to livelihood,” he says.
Experts say that most resettlement colonies in Delhi, such as Trilokpuri, are located close to the Yamuna riverbed and their water table is high.
“Since the water table is high, the earthquake vibrations impact the structures that have a tendency to sink. In case such structures are located near a highway or a road with heavy traffic, the traffic generates waves or vibrations through these houses and that could lead to tilting of the structure,” says Abhay Gupta of Skeleton/Escom Consultants P Ltd, adding that the government should make assessment of construction quality mandatory.
– Vandana Ramnani
Unsafe housing in the Capital is the result of lack of affordable housing in the city. A house in Trilokpuri being demolished.