Is Delhi prepared for calamities?

Is Delhi prepared for calamities?

Recently, Delhiites felt tremors after a moderate earthquake hit the city, which measured five on the Richter scale.

Late last year, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) also warned that if an earthquake measuring eight on the Richter scale occurs in the seismically-active Himalayan states from Jammu and Kashmir to Arunachal Pradesh, more than eight lakh people may die and 50 lakh people will be injured.

This means that the national Capital, which has witnes­sed several low-magnitude quakes in the recent times, has to be prepared at all times for a natural disaster since it is difficult to predict when an earthquake would occur. But, the moot question here is – Is Delhi prepared for such disasters? The answer is no!

The entire Himalayan region is seismically very active and during a span of 53 years between 1897 and 1950, four major earthquakes, (Shillong -1897, Kangra -1905, Bihar-Nepal -1934 and Assam - 1950) exceeding magnitude of eight on the Richter scale occurred in the region causing vast devastation.

Dr Netrananda Sahu, Assistant Professor, Department of Geography, University of Delhi, said, “Not only Delhi, the entire country is not prepared to handle a mass-level earthquake. The buildings are not constructed keeping in mind the principles of earthquake, they should be resistant to seismic activity.

The Government too is not doing anything about it. They are only focusing on rescue and relief work. If they know that certain areas are vulnerable, then why are they not doing anything? Why are they waiting for a quake to happen and then start reacting? There should be a master plan and regulations to construct buildings. The plans for constructing a building should be sanctioned only after the builders meet certain guidelines, like weight of the building, materials used, etc.”

The country has been classified into different zones indicating the intensity of damage or frequency of earthquake occurrences. Delhi comes under Zone IV. These zoning maps indicate the seismic coefficient that could be adopted for design of buildings in different parts of the country.

These maps are based on the intensity of quakes, their occurrence, geology and tectonic activity in a country. Environmentalist Sarvada­man Oberoi too blames the faulty constructions in the City. “We are seeing increasing number of multi-storey buildings coming up in the city which are not complying with the rules and regulations of construction.

Every builder should get the Structure Stability Certificate for constructing the buildings or else the authorities should just demolish the illegal construction, he said.

Another alarming thing, he pointed out, is the depleting ground water which will eventually lead to dry soil. “Water gives strength to the soil and if the base becomes brittle, the whole building will collapse and sink inside the ground, which can be a very dangerous situation.”

Metrolife spoke to an official from the National Disaster Management Authority (ND­MA) on Delhi’s level of prepar­edness to meet such calamities and the steps being taken to handle such situations.
“We are actually not doing anything. We have been told not to do anything,” was the shocking response of the official, requesting anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to the media.

“There is absolutely zero work going on in terms of disaster management,” the official said. “The Government is just not serious about this issue on which lives of thousan­ds of people depends. Even for top positions, replacements haven’t been made by the government. If officials are not there, then who will give us command to work? We have also stopped doing all the rescue drills which we used to carry out at Metro stations and buildings,” the official added.