Srinagar, Aug 11: Pioneering the way in seismic resilience, the J&K government had embarked on an ambitious project to construct a spacious, state-of-the-art earthquake-resistant building for maternity and neonatal care at Lal Ded Hospital, with the goal of fortifying critical medical infrastructure. However, this World Bank-funded venture has encountered significant delays and challenges, casting shadows on its progress.
The proposed building, designed to withstand seismic shocks of up to Richter scale 8, was slated to be a groundbreaking development not only for J&K but also for the entirety of India.
The earthquake-resistant building was intended to be the largest of its kind in the country, spanning an impressive 1-lakh square feet of built-up area.
Given the looming threat of earthquakes in J&K, situated within Seismic Zone V, the potential devastating consequences of an earthquake on crucial healthcare infrastructure necessitates proactive strategies.
The foundation of the building's earthquake resilience lies in the implementation of a base isolation system.
A New Zealand-based company, Robinson Seismic, had been awarded the contract of manufacturing, designing, testing, and overseeing all aspects of this system.
The Jammu and Kashmir Projects Construction Corporation (JKPCC) was entrusted with the project, while the design aspect mandate was given to Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi.
An official at JKPCC said that in 2020 the IIT Delhi made some changed in the blueprint of the building to make it more suited for floods, which not very long ago brought down the healthcare system in Srinagar.
“With the change in building design, Robinson Seismic also had to change the Base Isolation System design. And that’s where the project started going awry,” the official said.
He said the adjustments resulted in major changes that diverged from the initial tender specifications.
The revised costs surged by an astounding 60 percent, rendering the proposal unapproved by the board overseeing the project.
“The Rs 75 crore project is now costing us more than Rs 100 crore and that is unapproved,” he said.
As a consequence, the project was set back as the proposed cost increase was deemed unjustifiable.
The JKPCC official said that the tenders for the building would be floated afresh to help J&K retain the funding and realise the vision of some earthquake resistant buildings here.
“Two buildings with base Isolation System have already been constructed in India, one in Bhuj and the other in Delhi. However, the one planned for J&K is the largest approved yet,” he said.
The base isolation system is an innovative seismic engineering technique employed to enhance a building's earthquake resistance.
By placing flexible bearings or isolators between a structure's foundation and superstructure, this method allows the building to move independently of ground motion during an earthquake.
This decoupling reduces the transfer of seismic forces to the building, thereby minimising potential damage and ensuring safety.
Principal Government Medical College (GMC) Srinagar, Prof Masood Tanveer acknowledged that work had not started on the project.
“We are holding meetings with all the stakeholders. Hopefully we should see some progress soon,” he said.
Lal Ded Hospital is under the administration of GMC Srinagar.