Are Buildings in Mumbai and Delhi Safe enough?

The commercial and national capital of the country lies squarely in the seismic zones and the threat of earthquake looms large. Despite such a precarious situation, it is surprising to note that the buildings in these two cities and many other cities of the country fall remarkably short when it comes to adherence to the structural standards that are necessary to face the probability of an earthquake just like the one that hit Nepal a few days back. As per the Technical Director of AECOM, a popular global designing firm, Sangeeta Wij, “Lowest level of safety protection against earthquakes is offered by our codes. The designs are being made to counter one fifth of the earthquake intensity that may be witnessed in an earthquake prone zone.” According to the safety experts, separate guidelines are seriously lacking in the high rise buildings of the country which is fast becoming a common feature today. Although, builders say that the buildings made by them are designed in such a way that they can endure high intensity tremors. Also, they follow stringent standards as per the local rules. Both Mumbai as well as NCR Region lies in Seismic Zone 4 that clearly indicates high risk zones. It has been found that the design in the majority of NCR buildings is such that it meets the lowest earthquake performance category that is “collapse prevention”. In buildings that are earthquake resistant, there are four categories-Operational, Immediate Occupancy, Earthquake Resistant and Life Safety and Collapse Prevention. According to a Structural Engineering Firm, though these buildings will meet minimum standards as per Indian rules, the buildings would not fall but they will no longer be usable. Even the Bureau of Indian Standards also does not have a code for such a problem, but are promising to come up with a new code in the current year. This information came to the light when a Public Interest Litigation forced the Bureau to share the information. This PIL was a way to educate people and make them aware about the threat of this natural calamity. Having proper codes may address the problem and seek proper solutions for the same.