Earthquake Preparedness in Delhi: Everyone Concerned About Safety of Lives, Says HC

Everyone is concerned about the safety of their lives, the Delhi High Court Thursday observed while hearing a plea related to earthquake preparedness in the national capital.

The high court said there is nothing adversarial in this litigation and that even the authorities are equally awake to the situation.

Referring to the February 6 Turkey-Syria earthquake of 7.8 magnitude, the petitioner’s counsel said Delhi falls under seismic zone 4 (severe intensity zone).

A bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad said, “They are equally awake to the situation. There is nothing adversarial in the petition. All of us are worried about our lives so let them file their report.”

The high court granted four more weeks to the Delhi government to file a status report and listed the plea for further hearing on May 10.

The court was hearing a PIL by petitioner advocate Arpit Bhargava claiming the seismic stability of buildings in Delhi was poor and, in case of a major earthquake, there could be a large number of casualties.

Senior advocate Ravi Sikri, representing the petitioner, mentioned about an interaction with the architect of the high court’s new building who informed them that the structure is earthquake resistant but the old HC buildings have major violations.

The Delhi government had earlier told the court that out of over 10,000 buildings identified for assessing structural safety, more than 6,000 have been asked to show structural safety certificates and 144 unsafe buildings demolished.

It had said structural audit of 4,655 buildings has been done, while retrofitting is in progress in respect of 89.

The Delhi government, in its status report, had said the reports on action taken pursuant to the high court’s earlier order, shared by the Urban Local Bodies (ULB) of Delhi and other departments, reveal a total of 10,203 buildings have been identified for assessing structural safety so far and notices have been issued in respect of 6,192 of them asking their owners to furnish structural safety certificates or the details of remedial action taken.

The government had said it has come to notice that the Delhi Cantonment Board, Delhi Development Authority, New Delhi Municipal Council and Public Works Department have not yet submitted the updated required information related to earthquake preparedness. Letters were issued to them in December last seeking the requisite information, the status report said.

In July last year, the city government had informed the high court about the proposal to conduct structural audit of high-rise buildings and those that are over two decades old and witnessing large footfall on top priority in a time-bound manner to check preparedness for an earthquake.

The petition was filed in 2015 and the high court has, from time to time, directed the Delhi government and civic authorities to develop an action plan.

In 2020, Bhargava filed a contempt petition claiming the court’s earlier orders on making the national capital ready to face any major earthquake have not been complied with yet.

In December 2020, the high court sought responses of the AAP government, the DDA, and the three municipal corporations to the plea seeking contempt action against them for allegedly not complying with judicial orders on ensuring seismic stability of buildings in Delhi.

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