I don't have any authentic figures on unsafe structures in Delhi or
in India. But I know for sure majority of the structures standing at
present are not safe. What is meaning of safety? Is it a relative
term? Safe by what standards. Can a structure standing and in
service for the last 20 years be termed as unsafe? If we desire we
can debate on this issue for hours without any conclusion. In
engineering terminology a structure can be termed as safe if it
meets the requirements of National building Code of India and
other BIS standards. If not then a structure is unsafe whether it
standing for 20 or 50 years or more. BIS codes do gets revised
time to time. At any moment of time a structure has to pass the
test of latest code. It means if a structure was safe prior to the
revision of code it may become unsafe after the revision. It seems
funny but this is the fact. If this can happen with structures which
have been designed and constructed according to the provisions of NBC under strict quality
control then what to talk about majority of un-engineered structures.
Many structures don't need an engineer to certify that structures are unsafe because their
condition is so pathetic that any sensible person can make out that it is unsafe. But most
other structures will need an experienced engineer for technical audit. There are systems &
procedures to do it. Even in many cases structures can be repaired,rehabilitated or
retrofitted. There are several cases where it is advisable to rebuild the structures. But it is not that
easy to implement.The problem is very complex in nature. It involves identification of unsafe
structures, making people aware about it, persuading (or forcing ) them to get it strengthened,
getting trained persons to do it, necessary bye-laws & govt notifications.
In my view it should be declared a national problem and must be tackled in that spirit only.
Unsafe structures may be more dangerous than a terror attack. Even a single mishap kills several
hundred people. We have already witnessed Gujarat earthquake. We need a clear government
policy and strong will on the part of government. But I wonder , after all these efforts can we say
our structures are safe forever. Just a random thought.