Shimla's 98 percent buildings unsafe: Minister

By Vishal Gulati

Shimla, Sep 19 (IANS) Not even two percent of buildings in this Himachal Pradesh town are safe and can withstand earthquakes of high intensity, a minister said.

The fact came to light in the recently-concluded monsoon session of the state assembly.

Town and Country Planning Minister Mohinder Singh, while replying to a question of Congress member Anil Kumar Aug 30, said only 1.52 percent of the buildings of Shimla are safe and not prone to earthquakes.

"A large number of buildings in Shimla are liable to damage in a high-intensity quake," Singh said in a written reply to the question: 'Whether it's a fact that most buildings in Shimla are earthquake-prone.'"

According to the minister, 78.64 percent of the buildings fall in category A, followed by 12.96 percent in category B, 6.88 percent in category C and 1.52 percent in category X.

The buildings categorised as A are those made of mud, adobe and random stones. These are liable to suffer partial damage in the wake of quakes of magnitude 8.

B category buildings are made of large blocks and poor quality of timber. These are liable to develop deep cracks. C type are reinforced buildings that will develop only small cracks while X category structure are totally safe.

He said the state falls in seismic zone IV and V, suggesting severest seismic sensitivity. However, Shimla, once the British summer capital, falls in zone IV.

"Most of the buildings that have been categorized as A, may have ignored the traditional practices of seismic proofing such as 'dhajji' and incorporation of wooden beams," he said.

The minister said no specific study or date is available that reflects on the earthquake vulnerability of the buildings.

"There is a vulnerability atlas for the country based on a building census for the year 1991 for Shimla. As per the census, only 1.52 percent buildings are safe," he said.

At present, Shimla has 187 buildings with more than five floors.

These include a 12-storey commercial building being constructed by Jagson International Ltd, an eight-storey building of Oberoi group's five-star hotel Cecil and a 10-storey building of the Himachal Pradesh High Court.

Speaking to IANS, Singh said a study is being conducted to assess the hazard vulnerability and risk analysis in the state. "Based on the study, a state disaster management plan will be prepared for the state," he added.

Interestingly, an advocate moved the high court in July over the upcoming skyscrapers in the town.

He has challenged the government's February decision to relax building regulations of Shimla by removing the cap on the number of floors in the quake-prone geologically sensitive town.

Officials of the Town and Country Planning Department said Shimla's northern slope of the historic Ridge, an open space just above the Mall extending to Grand Hotel in the west and the Lakkar Bazaar in the east, is sinking.

Planned for a maximum population of 16,000, the town now supports 236,000, as per provisional census figures for 2011.

An earthquake measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale, with the epicentre on the Sikkim-Nepal border region, jolted northern and eastern parts of India Sunday evening, creating widespread



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