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‘Only God keeps the buildings from falling’

Why has action not been taken on the recommendations of justice (Retd) Lokeshwar Prasad commission of inquiry report on the structural safety of buildings?

realestate Updated: Jul 04, 2013 16:43 IST

It’s a report on the structural safety of buildings, but the files have been gathering dust despite being tabled in the Delhi Assembly last year.

On November 2010, the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi appointed single-member commission of inquiry with Justice (Retd) Lokeshwar Prasad, former Delhi high court judge, “to determine the administrative, procedural and statutory lapses of various departments and agencies to evaluate structural safety aspects of buildings already built or proposed to be built in East Delhi and to recommend remedial measures.”

Some architectural experts are left wondering how unauthorised structures in the Capital remain standing despite design flaws and poor quality of materials used for construction. “When I teach my students, I tell them that I am atheist but when I see the kind of houses people are living in, I start believing in God because I know that without God’s grace, these buildings will not survive,” says an senior civil engineer from a premier technical institute.

No one cares about the thousands of lives at peril in the Capital of India. The fact has been made evident because, despite setting up a panel for assessing the structural safety of buildings, no follow-up measures have been taken based on the panel’s report.

Today the report, even after being tabled in Delhi Assembly last year, is gathering dust in government files.

Chandan Ghosh, professor and head, geohazards division of the National Institute of Disaster Management had conducted rapid visual screening of 10,000 buildings in east Delhi and concluded that the building norms have been blatantly violated everywhere.

“The situation is so bad that most of the buildings will not survive an earthquake measuring 6 on the Richter Scale. Not even basic constructions safety aspects have been followed. As we know that these areas fall under high-risk seismic zone and so construction should meet the criteria for earthquake-resistant design of structures as prescribed the Bureau of Indian Standards,” says Ghosh.

Unfortunately, the general principles to be observed in the construction of such earthquake-resistant buildings have been ignored, adds Ghosh

Some real estate experts allege that Justice Prasad’s report was tabled in the Delhi Assembly in March 2012, just ahead of the MCD election, so that government could get some political mileage by blaming MCD for the mess. The effort to prepare the report has been a complete waste where the government’s time and money is concerned.

Even after being aware of the large number of unsafe structures existing in East Delhi, what is government doing to as remedial measures?” asks a senior civil engineer from IIT Delhi, requesting anonymity.

Interestingly another important aspect of the report was “to recommend measures that will combat corruption and make concerned public servants accountable for construction of unsafe buildings.”

“Unauthroised construction is still going on in several parts of Delhi with the connivance of police and MCD officials. Ninety per cent buildings don’t have completion certificates in Delhi. Proper procedures are also not being followed for the certificates being handed out. The fact is that the MCD does not have the number of junior engineers required to go and check the structural safety of buildings,” says an MCD engineer in east Delhi. He also admitted that if he was aware of violations he would think twice about penalising the homeowner “because I know how many rounds I have to take to the courts for one single case.”

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