Loopholes in rules, lack of on-site inspections and absence of engineering inputs are to blame for the series of wall and building collapses that the city has come to witness of late

Deliberate misuse of a wonky rule in allowing cellar constructions, lack of on-site inspections and absence of engineering inputs are key factors behind the spree of wall collapses or neighbouring buildings developing cracks at construction sites in the city.

The tragic incident at Moula Ali where six persons died and orphaned two children is only the latest incident where lives of poor people were snuffed out due to official apathy. Senior municipal officials have quickly shifted the blame onto the land owner, builder and the site engineer for the mishap while claiming to be short staffed for not keeping a tab on the construction activity.

Shocking reality is that on site inspections have become a rarity. If at all they happen, it is to check whether a building is being built according to the sanctioned plan or if there are any deviations. There is no one to inquire into the quality of construction or whether basic engineering norms are being adhered to, confess senior officials, seeking anonymity.

“When GHMC as the regulatory body is giving permission, it has the responsibility to look into all aspects instead of putting the onus on private builders, technical personnel or land owners. Deviating from the sanctioned plan may or may not lead to fatal accidents but not following engineering principles is surely asking for trouble,” they explain.

The municipal corporation has also “outsourced” checking of building plans submitted for multi-storied structures (five floors and above) to civil engineering departments of educational institutions. While outside expertise is needed, field inspections are not happening, they say. Matters have gone to such an extent that the engineering wing is totally out of the loop!

“Design changes are being made even before the final plan is approved,” reveal official sources.

Even more diabolical is the cellar rule change made when the common building rules came into vogue in 2006. The previous rule of not allowing the cellar or basement construction beyond the building line was relaxed 1.5 metres or so to encroach onto the setback space to allow for more parking area.

“But, this is being misused and builders are digging more than permitted stepping onto other constructions exposing the foundations leading to cracks in the buildings,” reveal senior officials.

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