Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The big jolt

  • 28 Apr 2015
  • Hindustan Times (Lucknow)
  • M Tariq Khan tariq.khan@hindustantimes.com

Is your dream home a high-risk zone?

FIND OUT HOW Before buying a high-rise apartment you can get the building blueprint checked by an expert to ascertain whether earthquake-resistant elements have been incorporated or not

LUCKNOW: One stroke of nature’s fury has made life of most residents of high-rise apartments in the upscale suburbs of Lucknow tense, if not edgy for the past couple of days. Jolted and shaken by one of the strongest quakes in recent memory, the slightest of quiver beneath the feet now sends them rushing out of their homes like a cat on a hot tin roof.
DEEPAK GUPTA/HTSeveral people living in high-rise apartments have vacated their homes for 72 hours apprehending more aftershocks in the city.
Those living in single-storey old houses still prefer to spend most part of the day as well as night out in the open, especially parks and memorials.
“I got late night calls from our horticulture and maintenance officials on Sunday asking whether they should leave the lights on and gates unlocked as people were queuing up in droves outside parks and memorials,” said Seema Singh, additional secretary, LDA.
This brings us back to the moot question: With high-rises becoming the trend of the day, how do buyers check that the edifices in which they are booking their dream homes are earthquake-proof.
“There is no such thing as ‘earthquake proof ’ as no building can be entirely safe from quakes. The actual term to be used is ‘earthquake resistant,’ which implies minimum damage to life and property in the event of an earthquake,” says SS Dalal, a senior town planner.
Geographically, Lucknow – which figures under the less quake prone zone III - seems to be much better placed on the country’s seismic map than most other cities. “I am sure after the devastation we have seen in Kathmandu and the resultant renewed awareness among property buyers, developers firms would start advertising soon that their project comply with an earthquake-resistant design,” says Ravi Jain, another town planner.
But then how can one very verify the authenticity of such claims by project developers?
Says Jain, “The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) lays down different criteria for dif ferent earthquake prone zones in the country. Registered structural engineers give projects a ‘structure certificate’, copies of which are given to the buyers also at the time of booking.”
They (buyers) can also get the building blueprint checked by an expert whether earthquake resistant elements (in the foundation, depth of the project, reinforcement of walls, plinth beams etc.) have been incorporated or not, he said.
The Uttar Pradesh Government came out of its self-induced slumber and realised the importance of having structural engineers on-board in development authorities and government housing agencies when an earthquake of similar intensity (7.7) hit Gujarat on Republic Day in 2001 killing thousands.
The then principle secretary in-charge of the housing and urban development department PL Punia issued a slew of directives to make builders of high-rises followed the quakeresistant-code.
“We have a system in place in which no building plan of a high rise gets cleared till the builder furnishes a certificate from a structural engineer incorporating all safety norms,” says LDA vice chairman Satyendra Singh when contacted by Hindustan Times. He said directives had been issued to all zonal engineers to do a recheck on all high-rises and ensure that no laxity was allowed and the building code was strictly being enforced.

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