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Saturday, January 27, 2001

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'Delhi ill-equipped to handle quakes'

By Our Staff Reporter

NEW DELHI, JAN. 26. ``Delhi is ill-prepared in case of an earthquake.'' This apprehension was expressed in a public interest litigation pending before the Delhi High Court for the last two years.

Quoting experts, the petitioner, Dr. B.L. Wadhera, said the capital lies on a fault-line of high-risk ``Seismic Zone-V'' which stretches from Chamoli in Uttaranchal to Haryana. Experts opine that an earthquake of 7 to 8 intensity on the Richter scale could hit the city any time.

When Chamoli district was hit by a major earthquake in March 1999, Shastri Bhavan, housing various Union Ministries, developed several cracks, the petitioner said. In case of an earthquake, lives and properties of nearly 50 lakh people would be at stake, all high-rise buildings would collapse leading to traffic jams preventing relief operations from reaching in time.

Dr. Wadhera said the Capital was not at all ready to meet the eventuality and no preventive steps had been taken. And if and when an earthquake strikes, all infrastructure would be destroyed. The Delhi Fire Service would also prove unequal to the task, the petitioner apprehended.

He suggested that all buildings, especially the high- rise ones, be made quake-proof. According to experts, it takes six to eight per cent of the total construction cost to make a building quake- proof.

A Division Bench of the Court comprising the Chief Justice, Mr. Justice Arajit Pasayat, and Mr. Justice D.K. Jain has directed the Union Government, the Delhi Government, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi and the New Delhi Municipal Council to immediately attend to the points raised in the petition.

The Union Government informed the court that the Bureau of Indian Standards had laid down standards for making buildings quake- proof and that it had set up additional observatories all over the country, including Delhi.

The Delhi Government has since held several meetings to prepare the city to deal with post-quake situations, but so far no concrete arrangement had been put in place, Dr. Wadhera alleged.

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