Excerpts from some government documents that contain several warnings — widely ignored — about New Delhi's vulnerability to a major earthquake:
GEOLOGICAL SURVEY OF INDIA, 1960:
In the seismic map of India, Delhi has been shown to fall in a zone liable to moderate damage. A number of minor shocks frequently recorded by the Meteorological Observatory at Delhi suggest that a regional strain exists somewhere around Delhi. Accordingly the following suggestions are put forth:
— Seismic factor of 0.1 g should be provided in the construction of all multistoried and costly buildings and that of 0.059 g for other buildings in the Delhi area.
— As far as possible the buildings be located ether on solid rock or quite far away from it. The construction of smaller buildings should be as compact as possible.
DELHI DISASTER MANAGEMENT AUTHORITY, currently available on its website:
Delhi is located in zone IV which has fairly high seismicity where the general occurrence of earthquakes is of 5-6 magnitude, a few of magnitude 6-7 and occasionally of 7-8 magnitude. Delhi thus lies among the high-risk areas …
Earthquake disaster in Delhi has the potential to go well beyond the statistics of deaths and injuries. Such a disaster in the country's capital, which also happens to be a major commercial and industrial center, will have huge economic and political implications which will affect the entire country and not just the population of Delhi. This adds an extra dimension to the earthquakes problem for Delhi.
NATIONAL DISASTER MANAGEMENT GUIDELINES – MANAGEMENT OF EARTHQUAKES, 2007:
The occurrence of several devastating earthquakes in areas (of India) hitherto considered safe from earthquakes indicates that the built environment in the country is extremely fragile and our ability to prepare ourselves and effectively respond to earthquakes is inadequate.
All these major earthquakes established that the casualties were caused primarily due to the collapse of buildings. However, similar high intensity earthquakes in the United States, Japan, etc., do not lead to such enormous loss of lives, as the structures in these countries are built with structural mitigation measures and earthquake-resistant features. This emphasizes the need for strict compliance of town planning bylaws and earthquake-resistant building codes in India.