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AP IMPACT: Delhi ignores own quake peril warnings

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posted on Jan, 25 2012 @ 09:16 AM

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.

I would be so angry at my government if I lived here. Especially had I lived through the one previously.

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.

Why would you spend so much money developing your city and not spending anything on making sure it wasn't taken out in one day?
Not to mention all the money sending people to California to train:

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.

Oh, that's right. Sports are more important.

It's almost as if they really don't care if people die in an earthquake, but I don't understand this mind set. If they're spending so much money trying to make it nicer for residents and tourists, why not also make it so it's sustainable in an earthquake?

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.

Honestly, I'd get the hell out of there before it's too late.

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.

posted on Jan, 25 2012 @ 09:36 AM

Originally posted by Afterthought
Honestly, I'd get the hell out of there before it's too late.

As an architect, and knowing what I know about their construction practices there, this unfortunately is the only reasonable answer. The whole system is completely and totally corrupt. Permits and inspections are easily overcome with a little bribe money. Design and engineering are non-existent, unlicensed contractors with no design expertise just build as they go no professional design input at all. It's going to take a major catastrophe before the government finally wakes up and takes action and by then it will be too late for the dead (which could possibly reach into the six figures range). When you hear about things like the single-wythe construction (a single layer of brick) mentioned in the article, well there's no adapting that type of construction to be earthquake resistant. It would have to be torn down. And that's what they should be doing- adapting all new construction to stringent standards while systematically tearing down and replacing old buildings starting with the most dangerous. I don't see it happening until they get hit with a huge catastrophe though.

posted on Jan, 25 2012 @ 09:37 AM
This situation is a perfect example of what we're seeing in America, too. People are being warned of bad things that are on the horizon that will threaten their comfy lives, yet they shrug it off as if nothing will ever happen. Is this type of denial a sickness? Are we incapable of learning from the past?

From the article referenced above:

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.

I suppose the ones in charge care only about money and live for today only. If you question their actions and motives, you're given a refund instead of an answer and they have no intention of doing anything extra to appease you.

"Here's your money back. Now, shut up and go away."

Why are people like this? Why do they not want to prepare for what can and most likely will happen in the near future? Why do people prefer to stick their heads in the sand and pretend that they're safe?

We see this attitude with many topics on ATS:
FEMA camps = fear mongering and what happened during WWII won't happen again
New Madrid Fault = fear mongering and it happened so long ago we're not in danger any longer. That's all in the past.
A second Depression = fear mongering and disbelief that present day folks will ever have to stand in line for soup

Why are people happier ignorant? Has the whole world been brainwashed into believing that the past is done and nothing is cyclical?
Maybe we are a species who is doomed.
If we were squirrels, we'd have stopped collecting and storing nuts for the winter by now and been added to the extinction list.

posted on Jan, 25 2012 @ 09:42 AM
reply to post by SavedOne

You're absolutely spot on.
Your comment is also answering the other questions I posed. People won't do anything until it smacks them in the face. A catastrophe has to knock some of their teeth out before they admit they should've put in their mouth guard.

posted on Jan, 25 2012 @ 10:13 AM
It has much to do with the Caste system and those people living in the shacks are expendable.

We are headed in a very similar direction and are not too far behind with record numbers of foreclosures and homeless people due to economic strife.

Where is our nearest bomb shelter in the event of Nuclear war ? Our local school ?

Is it stocked with food and supplies ? What about health facilities ?

How many of us have a ticket to enter the facilities of Mt. Weather as the Congress and Senate do in the event of a global catastrophe ?


posted on Jan, 25 2012 @ 10:41 AM
reply to post by nh_ee

Yes. Much of it does have to do with the caste system, but at the same time, I'm forced to believe that they are also ignoring the buildings that the upper class reside in as well.

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

That's a total of 92 percent. I have a hard time believing that the capital of India is composed mainly of poverty stricken residential buildings.
So, let's look at the layout of New Delhi.

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.

Hmm. They aren't concerned with preserving their historical artifacts and temples?

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.

Plus, most of the government buildings are located in 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.

Then, there's this:

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.

Considering much of the information above, I'm having a hard time believing that the government and educational facilities only make up 8% of New Delhi.

Cont. below
edit on 25-1-2012 by Afterthought because: (no reason given)

posted on Jan, 25 2012 @ 10:54 AM
I'm wondering if the British wouldn't like to see New Delhi fall into ruin.

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.

Then, there's the ancient warning:

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.

I'm not sure that it's a coincidence that New Delhi won it's independence from British rule shortly before an earthquake struck in the 1960s. Maybe the British are still in charge of the building construction and don't care that they aren't building up to code because they are still bitter about falling victim to an ancient belief? Maybe they're waiting for the next big one to hit so they can move in and rebuild to try to take it over again?
edit on 25-1-2012 by Afterthought because: (no reason given)

posted on Jan, 25 2012 @ 01:23 PM
reply to post by Afterthought

Wow. S&F for you. I used to think that when people spoke about Delhi, they were just being lazy and forgetting to call it New Delhi. So thanks for an educational glimpse into something I knew so little about.

Let's face it though. In an EQ situation, field hospitals would be the norm. I too was aware of the corruption in the construction industry, having viewed a few collapses on the news. Good for you for bringing all this forward though.

posted on Jan, 25 2012 @ 02:26 PM
reply to post by aboutface

Thank you very much!

I gave myself a history lesson, too. Gotta love it when that happens!

Plus, I never knew that there was an ancient prophesy about new cities started in Delhi. It's almost as though it's protected by some sort of unseen hand:

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.

(The website link above is a great one for learning everything about India past and present as well as touring information.)

I haven't been able to find anything more about the ancient declaration, but I'm still looking.

posted on Jan, 25 2012 @ 03:28 PM
While I agree something should be done, but it is an impossible task, it would mean demolishing the whole of the city and rebuilding it, and there is not the money to pay for it, if they did it, the very people they are rebuilding for could not afford the homes that were built.

Think of the cost of rebuilding so many homes, and I know life is more important than money, but it wont happen, I suppose they just think well if teh quake comes its cheaper than demolishing all those homes in the first place

posted on Jan, 25 2012 @ 04:49 PM
reply to post by PrinceDreamer

Very true. It's too late to do anything now except stay or go.
Since TPTB are always honoring the fabled Phoenix, it's easier and cheaper to let an earthquake level the city, then rebuild. This way they can still watch the Phoenix rising from the ashes.

posted on Jan, 25 2012 @ 08:46 PM
Come on, you two. There are indeed things that can be done. Now I have absolutely no idea how hot shipping crates can get inside, but they are sturdy and are being used for shelter in some areas. Surely there are people who can come up with some solutions to address this, such as innovative shelters applied to population density considerations /planning etc. The current density problem is awful, and I do not envy anyone who lives with such seismic risk. However we need to keep things like this in the forefront of the public eye and maybe someone will be motivated to bring about some measure of positive change. How terrible it is to think that the only safe place to be is on top of a pile of rubble.

posted on Jan, 25 2012 @ 08:55 PM
reply to post by aboutface

There probably is a way of improving the buildings, but like it stated in the article, they'd rather give out money than take care of the needed precautions. How do you get the ones in charge to act?
I have no idea, but I'm open to hearing suggestion if anyone has any.

posted on Jan, 25 2012 @ 11:16 PM
reply to post by Afterthought

Just thinking off the top of my head here. There is a large indian diaspora and they could put out press releases, for instance. Politicians hate negative publicity that shows up their performance deficiencies. Bollywood enthusiasts could launch an appeal to writers and producers who could further expose the problem and offer some creative possibilities. Everything must be tried to prevent stupid catastophies. I know it's a massive undertaking, but even if someone shows initiative, it could get the ball rolling and maybe save a few lives.

I also understand that people living in abject poverty have few choices and will not be the ones to bring about change since they may well be perceived as a burden. However our responsibility to our fellow human beings demands that we not overlook this, imo. Hope that makes some sense and that I don't come across as being preachy. After Haiti's disaster, I hate to think of what Delhi's would be.

Btw, that's an interesting thing about the city and its rulers, isn't it?

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