When the earth shook on Tuesday afternoon across the region, residents of east Delhi’s Lalita Park — like people in other parts of the city — rushed out of their homes to safety. The tremors instantly brought back memories of the building collapse in the area on November 15, 2010 in which 71 people were killed.
The residents had reasons to be paranoid. East Delhi has the maximum number of unsafe buildings that can fall like a pack of cards if a major earthquake strikes the capital.
This area also has the maximum number of unauthorised colonies where houses have been constructed on weak foundations.
Their walls are wafer-thin, construction material used is usually of poor quality. Almost all of these buildings have been built without government approval, making them all the more vulnerable to disasters as they are not structurally safe.
The Walled City too is full of dilapidated buildings with the civic agency turning a blind eye rather than demolishing them. Colonies along the river-bed are also vulnerable.
Civic agency officials say, property owners carry out illegal construction as they are unable to get their building plans sanctioned due to strict norms.
Delhi is located in seismic zone IV, the second-highest earthquake hazard zone in India. Many lifeline buildings are vulnerable to damage if an earthquakes strikes, limiting the government’s ability to deliver critical services.
According to the Vulnerability Atlas of India 2007, out of the 33.8 lakh buildings in Delhi, over 31 lakh are at medium risk of being affected by an earthquake, while 1.46 lakh are at high risk.
No structural safety engineers
Moreover, the civic agencies across the city have no structural safety engineers to check the buildings. The result: building collapses have become common in the past few years.
Also, a survey undertaken every year to find out the total number of dangerous buildings in the city was not carried out as it coincided with the municipal elections.