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Warning signs

Residents of Delhi and its adjoining satellite cities felt strong tremors on Saturday evening when an earthquake measuring 4.1 on the Richter scale struck Jhajjar in Haryana. The Indian Meteorological Department said the epicentre of the earthquake was Jhajjar in Haryana, which is 61 kilometres from Delhi. Although there have been no reports of any casualties so far, the warning signs are clear. The national capital lies on a major fault line. According to a recent study, at least 38 Indian cities lie in high-risk seismic zones and nearly 60 percent of the subcontinental landmass is vulnerable to earthquakes. Barring rare exceptions, India's hastily-built cities and public spaces are open and extremely vulnerable to serious damage. 

In terms of per capita casualty risk, most of these cities rank amongst the highest in the world. Delhi and the surrounding National Capital Region (NCR) sit snug in seismically active areas. Delhi's declining or non-existent construction standards, haphazard urban development, and skyrocketing population have further compounded the grave risk. If and when a major earthquake originates near Delhi, the likely consequences will be devastating. A statutory mapping has been done of all at-risk cities by different urban bodies belonging to both the Central and state governments. Despite repeated exhortations by geologists, there has been little concerted political action. In each of these cities lying in the seismic zone, the structure of the soil varies in different parts of the city. In Delhi, the trans-Yamuna area has sandy soil that is not safe for high rise constructions. Hence, the area remains unsafe as compared to houses built in the Ridge area. Despite having strict building codes in place, poorly-constructed houses continue to spring up. 
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