With the new Master Plan ridding Delhi of a height freeze, seismologists and structural safety engineers have now warned that utmost care will have to be taken to ensure that the proposed skyscrapers do not become life-threatening during an earthquake. The concern is not unwarranted since Delhi falls in Seismic Zone IV and is vulnerable to high-intensity earthquakes.
With no regulatory body in place to ensure strict compliance of structural safety norms, experts say that builders are consistently openly flouting norms and in the process endangering lives of many.
DK Paul, head, Earthquake Engineering Department, IIT Roorkee points out, “A microzonation study has revealed that buildings in the Capital—especially private buildings the Trans-Yamuna and Walled City areas—will suffer maximum damage during an earthquake. This is mainly because structural safety norms have been openly flouted in the case of non-engineering constructions." Paul, who is also the chairman of the Microzonation Committee, says that high-rises can come up even in high-seismic zones, but developers must ensure that constructions are structurally sound.
Clearly, it is critical that proper regulation is in place to make structural engineers accountable for the buildings they design. National Seismic Advisor to the Government of India, professor AS Arya says that “both implementation of structural safety norms and its enforcement is a problem at the moment”.
The existing building by-laws of 1983 do not yet have a clause that can ensure accountability of people-architects and structural engineers who are involved in planning buildings, said Arya, adding that that detailed guidelines of all standard building codes must be in place and followed by structural engineers to ensure safety.