FAR OF 400 FOR TRAN­SIT-ORI­ENTED DE­VEL­OP­MENT PROJECTS Is the gov­ern­ment putting lives at risk?

A FAR of 400 in TOD projects is not ad­vis­able for Delhi, which falls in seis­mic zone IV and is highly vul­ner­a­ble to earth­quakes

HT Estates - - FRONT PAGE - Van­dana Ram­nani

The min­istry of ur­ban de­vel­op­ment has ap­proved its tran­si­to­ri­ented de­vel­op­ment pol­icy (TOD) to ad­dress the short­age of af­ford­able hous­ing, pol­lu­tion, con­ges­tion and to en­sure that peo­ple ac­tu­ally walk to work. The pol­icy pro­vides for a higher FAR of 400, en­abling ver­ti­cal con­struc­tion or tall build­ings within the in­flu­ence zone ex­tend­ing to 500 me­tres on both sides of the mass rapid tran­sit sys­tem (MRTS).

While real es­tate and ur­ban plan­ners have wel­comed the move, many struc­tural de­sign ex­perts have ex­pressed con­cern over ram­pant con­struc­tion of tall struc­tures in Delhi, which falls in the seis­mic zone IV cat­e­gory and is highly vul­ner­a­ble to earth­quakes.

“If a se­vere earth­quake of 7 to 8 on the Richter scale hits the cap­i­tal, 80% of its build­ings won’t be able to with­stand it,” say ex­perts, adding that the min­istry has cleared FAR of 400 in the ab­sence of a spe­cial build­ing code for tall build­ings.

A FAR of 400 is ap­pli­ca­ble to ar­eas along metro tran­sit routes in Delhi. What this means is that there will be a sud­den spurt in growth of 40-storey and higher build­ings in Delhi, sim­i­lar to the su­per tall struc­tures to be launched in the NCR. Not only will this be dan­ger­ous, it would also bring to the fore to­tal lack of co­or­di­na­tion be­tween gov­ern­ment min­istries, claims San­deep Shah, coun­try head and MD - In­dia, Miyamoto In­ter­na­tional, earth­quake and struc­tural en­gi­neers.

The Bureau of In­dian Stan­dards that is under the min­istry of con­sumer af­fairs last year had promised to re­vise the Na­tional Build­ing Code and come up with a spe­cialised code for de­sign­ing tall build­ings. Noth­ing has been done as yet even though th­ese are es­sen­tial for con­struct­ing safe build­ings with re­spect to earth­quakes, Shah adds.

The two most im­por­tant build­ing codes with re­spect to earth­quake safety are IS-1893 and IS-13920, the first was last re­vised in 2002 and the sec­ond in 1993. It’s a pity that nei­ther the Nepal earth­quake which caused such wide­spread dam­age nor the warn­ing by the Na­tional Dis­as­ter Man­age­ment Author­ity (NDMA) that a mag­ni­tude 8 or higher earth­quake is due any­time has been able to mo­ti­vate the min­istry of con­sumer af­fairs to re­lease

the re­vised build­ing codes as promised. With­out wait­ing for the es­sen­tial codes the MoUD has an­nounced the re­vised FAR of 4, which is an­other ex­am­ple of lack of co­or­di­na­tion be­tween im­por­tant min­istries that seem to be work­ing in si­los, Shah claims.

A strin­gent reg­u­la­tory mech­a­nism and not higher FAR of 400 is the is­sue here. Ex­perts ask how, when build­ings with a FAR of 250 are struc­turally un­safe, how can struc­tures with a FAR of 400 be safe.

The crux of the prob­lem lies in the reg­u­la­tory mech­a­nism. To­day it’s con­sid­ered a mere for­mal­ity to get ap­provals for plans and struc­tural draw­ings sub­mit­ted to the au­thor­i­ties. There is no sys­tem in place that en­sures that build­ings have been done as per ap­proved struc­tural draw­ings. The in­spec­tion of the site be­fore hand­ing over the oc­cu­pancy cer­tifi­cate merely cer­ti­fies the plan­ning/ ar­chi­tec­tural pa­ram­e­ters and not the struc­tural pa­ram­e­ters such as qual­ity of re­in­force­ments or beams.

In­creas­ing FAR to 400 will in­crease the haz­ard level. The city re­quires a reg­u­la­tory sys- tem for check­ing the ad­e­quacy of build­ings. There are coun­tries where the metro passes right through the build­ings be­cause the struc­tural safety of the build­ing has been reg­u­lated and en­sured, says Ab­hay Gupta, director, Skele­ton Con­sul­tants Pvt Ltd/ESCOM Con­sul­tants Pvt Ltd.

Struc­tural safety ex­perts are also skep­ti­cal about plans to con­struct TODs, and build­ing a 100-storey mar­quee tower in east Delhi, es­pe­cially Karkar­dooma and near San­jay Lake be­cause of the frag­ile soil in the area. “Th­ese projects are not feasi- ble be­cause of the pres­ence of sandy silt on the river bed and a high wa­ter ta­ble. Th­ese ar­eas are prone to liq­ue­fac­tion dur­ing an earth­quake. There have to be guide­lines is­sued by the au­thor­i­ties for the type of foun­da­tion to be con­structed and the size of the struc­ture in th­ese ar­eas be­cause of th­ese de­fects,” Gupta adds.

Noida in Ut­tar Pradesh has silty sandy soil which means it has sand with silt con­tent and a high wa­ter ta­ble, mak­ing it prone to liq­ue­fac­tion. Dwarka, how­ever, has sandy silt soil with a low wa­ter ta­ble, adds Gupta.


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