If a major earthquake struck India's seismically vulnerable capital, these neighborhoods — India's most crowded — would collapse in an apocalyptic nightmare. Waters from the nearby Yamuna River would turn the water-soaked subsoil to jelly, which would intensify the shaking.
The Indian government knows this and has done almost nothing about it.
An Associated Press examination of government documents spanning five decades reveals a pattern of warnings and recommendations that have been widely disregarded. Successive governments made plans and promises to prepare for a major earthquake in the city of 16.7 million, only to abandon them each time.
The Delhi government's own estimates say nine out of every 10 buildings in the city are at risk of moderate or significant quake damage, yet the basic disaster response plan it had promised to complete nearly three years ago remains unfinished, there are nearly no earthquake awareness drills in schools and offices and tens of thousands of housing units are built every year without any earthquake safety checks.
Fearing many buildings could lie in ruins after a quake, the Delhi government began work in 2005 with U.S. government assistance to reinforce just five buildings — including a school and a hospital - it would need to begin a rudimentary relief operation to deal with the dead, wounded and homeless. Six years later, only one of those buildings is earthquake-ready.
"At the end of the day, people at the helm of affairs are not doing anything," said Anup Karanth, an earthquake engineering expert.
Image: In this December 20, 2011 photo, a man walks past an old building in India's most crowded northeast district of New Delhi.
Images and text: AP