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NEW DELHI (AP) -- The ramshackle neighborhoods of northeast Delhi are home to 2.2 million people packed along narrow alleys. Buildings are made from a single layer of brick. Extra floors are added to dilapidated buildings not meant to handle their weight. Tangles of electrical cables hang precariously everywhere.
If a major earthquake were to strike India's seismically vulnerable capital, these neighborhoods - India's most crowded - would collapse into an apocalyptic nightmare. Waters from the nearby Yamuna River would turn the water-soaked subsoil to jelly, which would intensify the shaking.
The Indian government knows this and has done almost nothing about it.
An Associated Press examination of government documents spanning five decades reveals a pattern of warnings and recommendations that have been widely disregarded. Successive governments made plans and promises to prepare for a major earthquake in the city of 16.7 million, only to abandon them each time.
The Delhi government's own estimates say nine out of every 10 buildings in the city are at risk of moderate or significant quake damage, yet the basic disaster response plan it had promised to complete nearly three years ago remains unfinished, there are nearly no earthquake awareness drills in schools and offices and tens of thousands of housing units are built every year without any earthquake safety checks.
Fearing many of the city's buildings could lie in ruins after a quake, the Delhi government began work in 2005 with U.S. government assistance to reinforce just five buildings - including a school and a hospital - it would need to begin a rudimentary relief operation to deal with the dead, wounded and homeless. Six years later, only one of those buildings is earthquake-ready.
"At the end of the day, people at the helm of affairs are not doing anything," said Anup Karanth, an earthquake engineering expert.
As far back as 1960, after a moderate quake cut power and plunged Delhi - then a city of 2.7 million - into darkness, the Geological Survey of India advised that all large buildings in the capital needed to have a plan for earthquake safety.
Some reports were ignored because of sheer apathy, others because of shifting priorities. In a city and country growing at lightning speed with huge problems of poverty and hunger that need more immediate solutions, earthquake preparedness has simply never been at the top of the list. Some plans begun with good intentions simply fell by the wayside.
Government engineers were sent to California to train. But the following year - with only the school made earthquake ready - all the engineers were taken off the project. They were reassigned to build stadiums for the 2010 Commonwealth Games, an athletic competition held in Delhi, said M. Shashidhar Reddy, the vice chairman of India's National Disaster Management Agency.
India, a still developing country plagued by corruption, isn't alone in being unprepared. More than 80 percent of deaths from building collapses in earthquakes in the last three decades occurred in corrupt and poor countries, according to a 2011 study published in the science journal Nature.
The study by Roger Bilham, a geologist at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and Nicholas Ambraseys, a civil and environmental engineer at Imperial College London, compared the loss of life in two magnitude 7.0 earthquakes in 2010. In Haiti, 300,000 died; in New Zealand none did, though a subsequent 6.1 quake there in early 2011 killed 182.
In contrast, Japan, which was 14th on the corruption scale, requires that all structures meet a 1981 building code and offers subsidies to retrofit buildings to meet more stringent guidelines set in 1995. About 75 percent of homes and public buildings meet the newer standards.
In India, which ranked 95th, contractors routinely flout regulations, use substandard material and add illegal floors to buildings, while bribing government inspectors to look the other way, said Reddy, the disaster management official. A 2001 quake in the western state of Gujarat killed more than 13,000.
Delhi, which sits near a highly seismically active area, is ranked four out of five on a seismic threat scale used in India.
Studies show such a large buildup of energy that a shifting of the tectonic plates could cause an 8.7-magnitude earthquake, Bilham said.
Experts also fear the potential damage from a smaller quake closer to the capital. The city lies between two fault lines, and a 4.2 quake in September woke up residents, with many fleeing their buildings. The same month, a magnitude 6.8 quake in India's remote northeast was also felt in the capital.
Either type of quake would cause moderate damage to an estimated 85.5 percent of Delhi's buildings and severe damage to another 6.5 percent, Delhi's disaster management authority said in a 2010 vulnerability assessment. It could also open cracks in the ground several centimeters wide and spread "fear and panic," the report said.
India has developed national standards for constructing earthquake-resistant buildings, but they are not mandatory and widely ignored, said Kumar of Geohazards.
Originally posted by Afterthought
Honestly, I'd get the hell out of there before it's too late.
Meanwhile, many residents don't realize the danger, or wrongly believe they are safe from it.
When Karanth decided to buy an apartment in 2010, he picked a builder who promised to deliver an earthquake-resistant building. He visited the site often, took photographs of the construction and talked to the engineers in charge.
Last year, he realized the project had none of the promised earthquake safety features. "This is not one or two apartments that I'm talking about. These are thousands of apartment units being constructed," he said.
He complained and demanded an explanation.
Instead, the construction company offered to give him back his deposit.
Either type of quake would cause moderate damage to an estimated 85.5 percent of Delhi's buildings and severe damage to another 6.5 percent
The ever-intriguing capital of India, Delhi has always been at the helm of historical moments that caressed or charred its soul since time immemorial. This is a city deep with history, rich in culture, adorned with splendid ancient and modern architectural marvels, and brimming with human diversity.
Delhi presents a vivid portrait of the cultural riches, the intricacy and dynamism of India. The third largest city of India, Delhi comprises of two distinct yet harmonious parts - Muslim India's Old Delhi and British India's New Delhi. Beautifully entangled in a sea of chaotic ambience, Shahjahanabad or Old Delhi is simply beyond any categorization of travel book idioms. Chandni Chowk, the heart of Old Delhi, itself is a history lesson. The place still retains the mystic aura of the past, exhibiting some of the best monumental heritage of Delhi.
New Delhi, on the other hand, is a paradigm shift from the chaotic semblance of Old Delhi. New Delhi is a graceful embodiment of British charm reflecting Victorian-style architectural grandeur with an ambience of openness. This luxuriously planned region of imperial Delhi is a fusion of colossal 19th century visualization fused with 20th century architecture.
The British certainly did a profound job in conceiving their imperial seat. The magnificent Rashtrapati Bhawan, Parliament House, India Gate, the North and South Blocks, the quaint white bungalows with lush gardens around and the commercial hub Connaught Place stand testimony to the minuscule planning that went into creating New Delhi.
Today, New Delhi is the seat of the Government of India that houses beautiful government vistas and various administrative buildings cushioned along spacious streets, adorned with beautiful tree lined avenues. New Delhi is one of the greenest cities in the world. Simply, the heart and lungs of Delhi.
Urbanization has made rapid strides but the classical charm of the city of Delhi has not lost its allure. Commercialization runs deep but Delhi has also retained its place as the art and cultural center of India. The city's repertoire of tourism delights has placed Delhi as one of the best travel destinations in India. Delhi's educational horizon has spread globally, spearheaded by its highly respected educational entities: IIT-Delhi, Delhi University, Jawharlal Nehru University, Jamia Milia Islamia, AIIMS& Of late it has also become a global hotspot for fashion, IT, sports, business and services industry.
Delhi's eight city, New Delhi, was the outcome of shifting the capital of British India from Kolkata (Calcutta) to Delhi in 1911. But due to delay in construction, New Delhi could only be formally inaugurated in 1931. Two British architects, Sir Edwin Lutyens and Sir Herbert Baker were commissioned to design a city in sync with the architectural grandeur of London. New Delhi was born.
The emergence of the Indian freedom struggle against the British rule also saw Delhi at the helm of the freedom movement. Even before the British shifted their capital from Kolkata, Delhi was the deciding point for the first war of independence in 1857, also termed as Sepoy Mutiny. The mutiny failed to attain its desired ending, but Delhi became a thorn in the eyes of the British. By that time the call for liberation had gained rapid ground and Delhi witnessed the famous Siege of Delhi campaign in June 8, 1857. The pensioned descendant of the Mughal dynasty Bahadur Shah II, crowned as the leader of resistance, was captured and exiled to Burma.
And with the shift of the imperial capital, all the activities during the freedom struggle were moved towards Delhi. The Netaji Subash Chandra Bose led Azad Hind Fauz (Indian National Army) was formed with the motto to capture Delhi and established Swaraj (self-rule). Their slogan 'Dilli Chalo' is still today the cry of disparagement by leaders and political parties when they organize any rally or demonstration.
There has been eight cities around modern Delhi, and true to an old saying - whoever founds a new city at Delhi will lose it - has come true every time. The mighty British who founded New Delhi in 1911 had to close its long Indian innings in August 15, 1947. And it was the hosting of the tricolor at the majestic Red Fort in Delhi, which marked a new chapter in the history of India.
Today, Delhi is a cosmopolitan city that echoes the emergence of a modern India standing firmly on a foundation that was created by the onslaught of time itself.
Delhi has seen the death of many empires and resisted bloody attempts to eliminate her. Nadir Shah had ordered his soldiers to plunder and massacre Delhi. It is said that he got so much wealth from Delhi that he was not able to carry in home. Abdali and Taimur Lane were no different they had tried their best to demolish the city of Delhi but it was some kind of a boon which helped it to regain its lost glory each time Delhi was plundered.