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Six month delay hits plan to rebuild earthquake ravaged Bhuj

A MASTERPLAN to rebuild the devastated centre of earthquake hit Indian city Bhuj has been delayed by six months, NCE learned this week.

Frustrated residents will have to wait until at least June before rebuilding of their homes can start. Thousands of houses were destroyed in the huge earthquake that hit the city in Gujarat nearly 12 months ago (NCE 1 February 2001).

The delay comes after Indian consultant Environmental Planning Collaborative (EPC) was told its five month study to produce a masterplan for Bhuj - accepted by the Gujurat urban development corporation - was not detailed enough.

The consultant has now been asked to produce a more detailed plan for the 100ha labyrinth of streets in the centre known as the 'walled city'.

EPC said the original brief did not demand the detail now requested by the development corporation. It has been asked to produce an extra plan of the walled city including the location of individual land plots, roads and open spaces.

'A plan for the walled city should have been done earlier but it wasn't, ' said EPC team leader of the Bhuj plan, Bharati Ghodke.

'If it had been, it would have saved a lot of time and frustration for these people. The new plan is going to take at least six months' Some residents are reported to have started rebuilding their homes in the walled city - once a thriving hub of 15,000 homes - without official permission.

But some of these rebuilt homes could be in areas set aside for new roads or open spaces. Bhuj district development officer Rajeev Topno confirmed that houses rebuilt without permission would be demolished.

Reconstruction is likely to be further delayed because EPC is unsure of the exact location of each resident's original plot.

Some 77% of the old city was razed by last year's earthquake.

EPC has only a 30 year old database to establish where each plot was located. Ghodke said it could take her team months to build up a new database before it could start work on the detailed reconstruction plan.

Damian Arnold in Bhuj INFOPLUS www.

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