The Delhi government may be brainstorming on how to better prepare the national capital in case of a Nepal-type earthquake, but the Capital’s civic agencies have no method to ensure structural safety of buildings during construction.
Senior officials of the municipal corporation say the only way to ensure the structural safety of a building in the city is an undertaking by the owner and architect.
“Before a building plan is passed, it’s mandatory that the proprietor signs an undertaking that has the signatures of the architect who made the building plans,” said an official.
Experts, however, say that 90% of the building designs in the capital are either designed by the mason or the contractor, and the check by the civic agencies is merely eyewash.
“The undertaking is the only basis for the municipal officials to ensure that the building is made according to building laws. Changes and additions done by the owners often remain unnoticed and secluded in the building blueprints,” said an expert on condition of anonymity.
The civic agencies have 75 architects on their payroll. The civic agencies receive at least 3,600 building designs every year.
Speaking on the checks conducted by them, municipal officials said that while a visibility check is conducted by zonal officers after receiving formal complaint, no specific checks are conducted to retrofit or ensure structural safety.
“There are around 50 lakh building structures in the city and most remain unchecked. We carry out a check prior to the monsoon. But due to the sheer large numbers, buildings are visually checked only from outside,” said a municipal corporation official.
According to the Centre for Science and Environment, 70-80% of the buildings violate regulations in Delhi.
A survey conducted by the Tejinder Khanna Committee set up in 2006 had also pointed that nearly 80 per cent buildings were found structurally unfit although officials say that only two buildings have so far been retrofitted.
Experts say that an earthquake in Tokyo or Los Angeles may result in damage to only a few buildings because strict construction regulations are adopted. But the same quake may be catastrophic in Mumbai or Delhi, in terms of damage and lives lost, because the building design and construction practices are not adequately regulated.
In fact, the Bureau of Indian Standards does not have a code for high-rise buildings, which are coming up in large numbers in the national capital region.In the absence of strict compliance of regulations, many people add several storeys to existing structures without proper approvals and safety measures, adding to the vulnerability of the building to quakes.