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On a shaky foundation

V. Geetanath
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The clamour for speedier clearances of building plans and pressures from the powers that be to expedite the process lead one to ask if sufficient time is given for proper scrutiny of the plans submitted or inspections conducted on site, says V. Geetanath

Greater Hyderabad Municipal Commissioner M.T. Krishna Babu has an interesting tale about the building activity. It so happened that during a visit to Paris (France) and Bonn (Germany) last year, he was all eager to know about how the city chiefs there regulate constructions.

He was taken aback when informed that there is no separate regulatory cell to tackle unauthorised constructions as there was no need for it. The self-regulating mechanism when the permissions are given ensures that not a single property owner deviates from the sanctioned plan lest he is denied of civic amenities, and so the construction is qualitative.

“They do 150 checks and take more than a year before releasing building plans to permit construction,” he exclaims. Apparently, the civic bodies there do thorough on-site checks during every stage of construction leaving nothing to chance besides also studying the probable impact on the available amenities. The contrast couldn’t be starker here. While unauthorised constructions abound , there are question marks about the quality of construction plus there is this unusual hurry to obtain building permissions.

“We are flooded with calls, personal visits and recommendations enquiring about when the building committee meeting will be held to clear the plans. Following that, we are then besieged further to release the plans,” says Additional Commissioner (Planning) K. Dhananjaya Reddy.

The clamour for speedier clearances of building plans and the internal measures within the municipal corporation to expedite the processes due to pressures from the powers that be lead one to ask if sufficient time for proper scrutiny of plans submitted are done or inspections conducted on site.

The recent building collapse in Thane that took several lives (an illegal construction) and the city’s earlier such tragedies at Motinagar and Narayanaguda do raise several questions about regulation of building activity.

“The multi-storied building committee with technical officials check high rises above 15 metres or five floors and also by the consultants like the civil engineering wing of JNTU and Osmania University, but no detailed study of structural drawings is done on site,” say senior officials.

They admit that the town planning wing checks only for deviations from the sanctioned plan. Minute checking done in Europe, United States or Australia where even the quality of internal wiring, or the extent of steel, cement and other material necessary to build a robust structure is missing here. “Neither we have a mechanism nor qualified technical personnel for such a job,” is his candid remark.

No technical scrutiny

It is also pertinent to note that for buildings below a height of 10 metres there is no technical scrutiny at all to check for structural stability. Senior architect A.B. Reddy, however, says that local bodies have to do mandatory checks of foundations, slab levels and make regular onsite inspections as per rules after though it is rarely done.

“The National Building Code (NBC) guidelines remain on paper. Applicants are ready to pay bribes to obtain quick permissions rather than engage a qualified structural engineer or architect. There is a distinct lack of commitment to check for quality from all sides,” is his pithy comment.

Interestingly, a GHMC committee headed by then Commissioner Sameer Sharma which had probed the Narayanaguda building collapse killing 13 persons two years ago had recommended institution of a third-party supervision of the construction activity. It had also suggested the architect concerned to give a status report whenever each floor is raised. Alas, no progress on this count.

The National Building Code (NBC) guidelines remain on paper. Applicants are ready to pay bribes to obtain quick permissions rather than engage a qualified structural engineer or architect.







The clamour for speedier clearances of building plans and the internal measures within the municipal corporation to expedite the processes due to pressures from the powers that be lead one to ask if sufficient time for proper scrutiny of plans submitted are done or inspections conducted on site, says V. Geetanath


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