225 million years ago the Indian subcontinent was an island off Australia; the inexorable movement of tectonic plates since that time has smashed it (slowly) into Asia, the crumpling from which collision created the 2900-kilometer Himalayan mountain range. Tectonics has also bequeathed India a significant amount of seismicity, and large swathes of the country’s north and north-east, including the city of Delhi and the Narora nuclear power plant, fall into higher-risk Zones 4 and 5. In the wake of Japan’s recent disaster, increasing numbers of voices in India are asking whether that country is adequately prepared for a similar event. Writes former governor of West Bengal Gopalkrishna Gandhi in The Hindu:
As to quake-resistant architecture, do we know of major initiatives in our cities and towns to identify buildings that are vulnerable, either on account of their age or their quality? We do not. Do we know of clearly visible steps to regulate high-rise constructions in zones of high vulnerability? We do not. On the other hand, we have been treated to the following advertisement recently of a high rise residential structure coming up in the very heart of Zone 4: “…offers a variety of living solutions … With …’s unprecedented levels of luxury, comforts & services, live above everyone else. Height titillates. Height satiates your desire to fly. It’s at height that you come alive. With height, you break away from gravity and feel free …”
Building activity of the multi-storeyed kind proceeds in our Zones of High Risk remorselessly. That New Delhi and Narora where we have a nuclear power plant are located in Zone 4 where the general occurrence of earthquakes is of 5-6 magnitude, a few of magnitude 6-7 and occasionally of 7-8 magnitude and that, therefore, Delhi and Narora lie among the high-risk areas is something we should know about, and the State must do something about, visibly and credibly.