NEW DELHI: Besides helping Nepal in its time of crisis, India seems to have learnt a lesson or two from its neighbour’s misfortune. The earthquake that killed nearly 8,000 people in the Himalayan nation has galvanised the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) into action.
Not only has the Delhi disaster management plan been sent to the Lieutenant Governor for a final approval, proposals have been moved for marking disaster management lanes, retrofitting of important buildings, verification of seismic safety of vulnerable buildings, imparting civil defence training to over a lakh people and for setting up new disaster management centres across the city. Once implemented, the Rs 5,200 crore plan will equip the city to handle disaster efficiently.
All of Delhi is in Seismic Zone IV, at high risk to earthquakes and can face an earthquake of 5.5 to 6.7 on the Richter scale. Yamuna bank that includes entire east Delhi, the ridge area in central Delhi, West Delhi, and the Aravali hills that comprise south Delhi are at high risk.
A major threat is that 45 per cent of Delhi’s population lives in slums, unauthorised colonies and unplanned settlements. These will see massive damage in case of any disaster. The 2011 Census recorded Delhi’s population at 167.53 lakh.
“Once notified, there will be regular drills to prepare vehicle owners on when to vacate. There will be signage and sirens for people to know. These will not be exclusive lanes but at time of disaster when siren rings people should move out of those lanes,” said Kunal, District Magistrate in charge of disaster management in Delhi
Also in the pipeline is retrofitting of important buildings such as hospitals, government offices and other structures. The DDMA has all written to Central Power Works Department (CPWD) to take up the task of retrofitting of Central government buildings in Delhi, while PWD is in the process of identifying buildings under the Delhi government
“We are also trying to prepare a panel of structural engineers who can certify the buildings’ seismic safety which means up to what level it can stand tremors,” said Kunal, adding that a pilot project for retrofitting five key buildings—GTB Hospital, Office of the Divisional Commissioner, Ludlow Castle School, Police Headquarters and Delhi Secretariat—was launched in Delhi in 2006 but work on only two could be completed.
The DDMA has written to all private schools to prepare disaster management plans as nearly 30 per cent of them have none. All high-occupancy places such as hotels, malls and hospitals have also been asked to submit disaster management plans within 15 days.
The biggest worry for DDMA is multiplicity of authority in Delhi as the Capital has several civic bodies such as the MCD, the PWD, the NDMC, etc. Officials feel coordination and communication among these might be an issue in case of a disaster.
“We are trying to make a blue book for all the authorities handling disaster on what to do when a disaster happens. So there will be clear cut work laid down for separate authorities to avoid any confusion,” said Kunal.
The authority is also focusing on preparedness of the common man in case of any disaster. It plans to have over one lakh people trained in civil defence. Also, in the pipeline are 33 community-managed disaster management centres across Delhi, which will be handled by civil defence. The number of Quick Reaction Teams (QRT) is planned to be increased to 100 from the current 11.
■ 70 main roads to have disaster management lanes
■ Retrofitting of key buildings such as hospitals and government offices
■ 100 Quick Reaction Teams
■ 33 disaster management centres under civil defence
■ Verification of seismic safety of buildings