Quake-safe certificate now must for all Delhi buildings

26/Jul/2019 Paras Singh, Times of India

NEW DELHI: In a bid to make around 32 lakh buildings in the city earthquake-safe, the civic bodies have readied a set of recommendations, according to which all owners have to get their buildings certified as quake-proof. They may soon be asked to obtain structural safety

certificates from an empanelled set of engineers. A cess-like charge on property tax and building plan sanction fee is also on the cards to fund the task to secure Delhi, which falls in the ‘seismic zone 4’ (risk of high damage). However, most places along the Yamuna floodplains f all under the category of the ‘very high’ risk index.

The action plan accessed by TOI recommends the certification in a phased manner — with most-vulnerable structures to be evaluated first. Three factors, the age of a building, its height and the ‘risk zone’ it falls under will be considered f or determining the urgency of the check-up.

Old buildings, those higher than 15m to be top priority under quake action plan. The action plan, which also strives to make the buildings compliant with national building code (2005), has been submitted to the Delhi’s principal secretary. “Two meetings were held in June with all the stakeholders to chart out future strategy. It has been decided that a public notice will be put out and responsibility will lie on owners to get their buildings certified. We only have 74 structural engineers in all three corporations whereas there are lakhs of buildings in unauthorised colonies and other vulnerable areas. Help from private structural engineers is the only way to go forward,” a senior SDMC official said. “Even though Delhi falls in seismic zone 4, there is variation in vulnerability of different areas. The National Institute of Disaster Management has done a lot of work on micro-zoning and Delhi can be divided in high risk, moderate and low risk zones,” the report states.

Buildings that are more than 15m high will be evaluated first, while older buildings come under the highestpriority category. Most places along the Yamuna floodplains along with places like Delhi University’s North Campus, Sarita Vihar, Gita Colony, Shakarpur, Paschim Vihar, Wazirabad, Rithala, Rohini, Jahangirpuri, Bawana, Karol Bagh and Janakpuri f all under the category of “very high” risk index, a Government of India report had f ound last year.

The action plan recommends the creation of a separate online software for facilitating the process while underlining that in case of noncompliance of the provisions beyond the deadline of each category --“criminal liability” should be fixed.

The report states that there will be uniformity of f ee structure so that no harassment is done to people but “urban local bodies will have to bear heavy costs for verification purposes f or which some uniform charges be levied at the time of sanctioning building plan or with property tax”.

There are over 32 lakh buildings in the capital and over 45,000 are added every year. The Tejendra Khanna Committee, set up in 2006 to look into the various aspects of unauthorised construction found that 70-80% structures had violated building norms.

The action plan also recommends some changes to be made in building bylaws and DMC Act f or covering multiple owners in different floors, a separate comprehensive policy f or unauthorised colonies, and expanding the definition of “eminent danger” to the building to enforce the law.

Another civic official who was part of the consultative process explained that in case the checked buildings are found wanting, a set of required retrofitting and strengthening steps will be recommended. “This will follow notice to the owner and subsequent legal action,” he added.

“Most buildings in 1,800 unauthorised colonies do not follow basic building norms and will certainly f all like a pack of cards even if a medium-intensity earthquake hits Delhi. To turn them into safe buildings will be immensely tough,” the official said.

The plan has been prepared on HC directions after it warned of contempt proceedings against Delhi government and corporation staff.