Ahmedabad, Jan. 25: Four years after the Republic Day earthquake killed over 12,000 people, there is little on the ground that tells of the tragedy. But look closely and something has changed: the skyline.
Ahmedabad, often considered a country cousin of towering Mumbai, has had very few highrises since the temblor razed 84 multi-storey buildings, killing nearly 800 people.
If 60 per cent of buildings coming up before the quake were highrises, the figure has dropped to about 2 to 3 per cent now, said N.K. Patel, director of the state Federation of Real Estate Developers' Association. He attributes the fall in the number of highrises to 'people's apprehension'.
Many had moved out of highrise apartments to row houses or independent bungalows out of fear, added Amit Maniyar, a leading developer. The fear has gradually subsided but there are not many takers for highrises.
Few would have missed that not a single builder booked for faulty construction, which has been blamed for the extent of devastation, has been convicted. In fact, some of them have floated new companies and are back in business.
More than 80 cases had been registered against builders. Even the prevention of anti-social activities act was slapped on some developers after more than one building they had promoted crashed. But some have been bailed out and the other cases are dragging on. A few fled the country before the law could catch up with them.
But the tragedy has led to tightening of building bylaws and strict implementation. The result: permission has been granted for only 11 highrises ' that too in greater Ahmedabad ' in these four years.
The Ahmedabad Urban Development Corporation, which handles the satellite townships that are cropping up on the edges of the city, sanctioned only 11 of 3,200 building-use applications for highrises. Several among them were old projects begun before the quake.
The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation has not given the nod for a single highrise.
Both civic authorities have made it mandatory for developers to get designs certified by licensed structural engineers, making it difficult to get permission for highrises.
The survivors, too, have learnt a lesson. They have ensured that their new houses are based on quake-resistant technologies. They did not leave anything to chance or the builders and ensured that the best material is used and all laws are complied with.