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A Cautionary Tale

June 1, 2016


Poor structural audits are resulting in building collapses and mishaps. Experts discuss key reasons...


For the last five years, there have been nearly fifteen building collapses in Mumbai and the suburbs, which have proven fatal for hundreds of people. The recent building collapse at Kamathipura was a subject of much discussion. The concern of the residents and civic activists of the area is that the structural audit done in 2015 showed that the building was not declared 'dilapidated' and it was only marked for repairs.


A resident of the area says, “For the last ten years, I have been monitoring the buildings in the area and have been following up with officials about the action to be taken for the buildings, which are not listed as `dangerous'. But there is no answer. Also, we are not aware of the norms, which they follow for audits as many buildings, which are in a bad condition, are not in the list.“ At present, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) conducts a survey of the civic buildings and gives a notice for either repairs or evacuation. Every ward officer has been instructed to carry out the procedure and submit the report. Rajkumar Sharma, a civic activist informs, “In 2007, the civic body had made structural audit compulsory for owners, developers and residents of the buildings and housing societies. In case of a failure to carry out a structural audit, it had also imposed a fine of Rs 25,000. But till date, no strict action has been taken.“


Officials in MHADA informed that the Mumbai Building Repairs and Reconstruction Board, every year, comes out with a list of buildings, which are in a dangerous condition. According to the recent report released by MHADA, there are nearly 14,000 cessed buildings only in the island city, which were constructed before 1969.


Chief officer of MHADA's Mumbai Building Repairs and Reconstruction Board says, “Every year, the MHADA carries out a survey of dangerous buildings. Also, the tenantslandlords of private and MHADA acquired buildings have been told to compulsorily carry out structural audits if the building is more than 30 years old and even if there are visible problems occurring due to monsoon vagaries.“


Pavan Nishad, a civil engineer and structural consultant says, “During the audits, emphasis should be laid on electrical, plumbing or other mechanical systems, which have become dangerous or inoperable. If the foundation has settled or is damaged, the building should be vacated immediately. Earlier, the BMC had no standardised format but now, a checklist has been prepared.“


The other concerns of the experts are that even in the newly constructed and under-construction buildings, there have been mishaps due to the use of poor construction material.


In light of several building collapses in densely-populated areas of our cities, the need for quality construction materials and techniques, has once again been brought to the forefront.Many of the older buildings in the cities like Mumbai and its surroundings, were constructed taking into consideration inadequate quality parameters and should have been redeveloped long ago.However, it is not only old buildings, which are in danger of a collapse but also newer constructions have been built on a cookie-cutter basis with a view to maximise profitability.


The other issue is about the illegal buildings, which come up in the area without proper permissions. The developers don't abide by the mandatory norms necessary for construction. Experts have welcomed the decision where the High Court has given a decision for not regularising the illegal buildings.


This is a good judgment as it sends out the right signal to the industry and the end-consumer. If illegal buildings get regularised, then it will set a wrong precedent going forward, especially for Mumbai where large-scale development is underway.Most of these buildings are a deterrent to progress.


Structural audits need to be performed on older buildings too, if Mumbai is to develop into an international city.





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Source: moneycontrol.com






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