Many housing experts feel that the issue of earning revenues from unauthorised buildings is unethical and that the government should give serious thought to the issue of risk of lives in such structures from fires, natural calamities such as earthquakes or from structural faults.
According to experts, the situation is extremely grim in unauthorised and illegal colonies where unchecked construction is taking place by private developers who pay no heed to afety norms.
Chandan Ghosh, professor and head of the geo-hazard risk management division, NDMI, says, “Had the government taken any lessons from the Lalita Park tragedy (in which 73 people died in a building collapse) the mushrooming of thousands of unsafe houses could have been stopped in the last three years. People don’t know that adherence to safety norms will increase the cost of construction by just 10%. Secondly, in the last three years, MCD has empanelled more than 60 structural safety engineers who are competent to certify the safety of the buildings. Even then illegal construction is rampant - especially in the unauthorised and illegal colonies.”
Experts feel that a multi-pronged strategy is needed to address the issue. First, the government should bring in strict measures to check illegal construction such as a ban on registration of unsafe properties. Second, violation of building by-laws should invite strict punishment. Third, consultancy of building safety norms should be easy and accessible. Fourth, there should be a body which takes in as members qualified civil engineers on the basis of their skills on the lines of The Council of Architecture, which came into existence after Architect’s Act was passed in Parliament in 1978. It is a body corporate overseeing registration of architects, educational standards, practice standards for practicing architects and recognised qualifications. It also conducts a professional examination in four parts and qualifying students are awarded associate membership, which is a recognised qualification to work as an architect.
“These measures can check illegal construction. For unsafe buildings, the only way is to either reconstruct them or use retrofitting to add elements in the building to make it sturdy,” advises a senior civil engin eer from IIT, requesting anonymity.
No safe building certificate? Pay a fine of just R200 and then R10 per day from the date of possession
Taking physical possession of a housing unit without a completion certificate? This document, which assures you of the structure’s safety, is not very important for the government. Failing to produce the certificate attracts a paltry fine from the Delhi Municipal Corporations of `200 and subsequently `10 a day from the date of possession. What’s more surprising is that civic agencies do not want to stop people from taking possession of their homes without a formal certification of completion. They allege that their officials face legal problems if they insist on a certificate.
“Municipal corporations are already short-staffed. If we issue one challan to a home owner for not having a completion certificate, I have to depute a person to handle that matter in the court. There are lakhs of people who violate rules in Delhi and if we start issuing challans to all of them, all our of MCD staff will be making an appearance in court,” says a senior MCD official.
Legal experts feel that the violation should be strictly dealt with and negligence of building safety standards should invite a very heavy fine. “If the government makes it a criminal offence or imposes a heavy penalty on people who do not have the certificate, at least people will not violate building bylaws so easily. But at the same time, the mechanism to expedite completion certificate should also be made simple and easy otherwise this will lead to more corruption. I think spreading awareness about structural safety is also a very important aspect of safe living,” says Jasbir Singh Malik, a SC advocate.