High risk

Problem: Tall buildings risky in high seismic zones; Status: Hill-stations are getting concretised and growing vertically; Challenge: Use local construction material; regulate traffic

Evam Piljain, an 80-year-old Toda who's spent all her life in Ooty, feels distraught at the sight of her hometown. "I cannot sit in the verandah anymore," she says. She moves to her drawing room and gazes wistfully at a photograph of Ooty taken in the early part of the twentieth century -- green, picturesque. But outside, hill after hill is chock-a-bloc with concrete buildings.


Concrete disaster
Other Indian hill-stations are no different. Roller-compacted concrete (RCC) has taken over from wood and mud and is now synonymous with construction. Reminisces B P Rai, secretary, Federation of Societies for Environmental Protection, a Darjeeling-based NGO, "Earlier, there were only small wooden houses. But with increased population, the need was felt to construct RCC multi-storey buildings, which can take a load of 7-8 storeys. This has spelt disaster."

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