After two wall collapses, PMC vacates labour camps, but ignores 2013 retaining wall policy
Two incidents of wall collapse in the city —in Kondhwa and Ambegaon — within three days has exposed the apathy of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) towards the safety of construction labourers. On Tuesday, the civic body swung into action and shifted labourers residing in 75 shanties at disaster-prone locations to safer areas.
Labour camps from Sadashiv peth, Shukrawar peth, Lohegaon, Kharadi and Dhankawdi have been shifted to safer locations. The action by PMC, comes after Rajeev Jadhav, state labour commissioner, asked officials to shift shanties housing construction workers set up at risky locations to safer ones.
However, despite these relocations underway, the PMC fails to implement its wall retaining policy formed in 2013. Following an incident in 2013, wherein three women were killed due to a wall collapse in Dattawadi, the PMC had framed a policy for building the boundary walls. However, the civic body has failed to implement this policy.
While the Kondhwa tragedy claimed 15 lives, Tuesday’s wall collapse incident at Ambegaon saw six persons losing their lives. In both cases, the deceased were construction labourers and their kin.
After the Kondhwa collapse incident, PMC sent notices to 52 dilapidated buildings and also served notices to 22 labour camps to shift to a safe place.
Prashant Waghmare, PMC city engineer, said, “The policy prescribes certain norms which have to be taken into consideration by the builders before constructing a boundary wall. The policy prescribes technical aspects to construct a boundary wall like its height, structure and foundation. We have been instructing the builders’ association to follow the policy, but it is not being done.”
Waghmare accepted that the civic body is not taking action for the execution of this policy. He said, “PMC has a retaining wall policy, but we are just the licencing authority. It was decided that the architects and the structural engineer would be responsible for implementing it. The newly constructed buildings are following the policy by and large, but the question is of the old retaining walls which were constructed before the policy was formed.”
The activists in the city criticised the PMC for not taking any action.
Activist Vijay Kumbhar said, “There are rules and policies for everything, but, it is a common tendency among officials not to follow it. While PMC is definitely at fault for not implementing its own policy, the builders are also to be blamed for not following instructions by the civic authority, which inturn is taking innocent lives.”
A PMC official on the condition of anonymity said, “Recently, surrounding areas have been merged in the PMC limits. These parts were merged after they were developed. Hence, they never followed the norms and policies stated by the PMC. The construction of buildings in these areas is haphazard.”
Certifying agencies not serious about retaining walls
PMC officials have blamed the builders for not following the retaining wall policy. Officials said that in the Kondhwa wall collapse incident, the certifying agency gave the safety certificate to the builder without conducting a structural audit. PMC issues a completion certificate only after the builder has received a certificate from the certifying agency. PMC city engineer Prashant Waghmare said that it is mandatory to conduct a structural audit of the structures which are older than 30 years.