N.J. Nair

Similar situation prevails in all cities, towns and panchayats in the State

Space constraints hinder emergency rescue

Amendments lay down strict safety norms

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The collapse of a multi-storey hotel building here on Monday and the hiccups in rescue operations due to space constraints point to the precarious state of high-rise buildings in the five corporations and certain municipalities and urbanised panchayats in the State.

Town and Country Planning Department sources told The Hindu that a number of high-rises in the corporations, mainly Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Kozhikode, and certain municipalities and urbanised panchayats such as Trikkakara which have witnessed a construction boom, lack the mandatory open space around such buildings. These include hospitals as well as residential and commercial buildings. In the event of a fire or a structure collapse, rescuing those trapped in the debris will be an arduous task. Repeated reminders to the civic chiefs to enforce the space norms have not yielded any response so far, sources said.

The department has drawn flak from a section of builders and developers for the latest amendments to the Kerala Municipal Building Rules, 1999 which laid down strict norms for the safety and security of structures. The department’s arguments for coming up with revised space management norms have been endorsed by many quarters.


Five metres of open space around multi-storey buildings has been made mandatory. The rules specify that there should be enough space around buildings to take in a fire tender or an ambulance in case of an emergency.

The width of the road adjacent to a multi-storey building having up to 100 residential units has been fixed at 12 metres and those having more than 100 units at 15 metres.

Such amendments have been made on account of the increase in number of vehicles and inadequate carriageways. Though the road abutting the building which collapsed here has the mandatory width, shortage of space was a major hitch for rescue operations.

The new rules have specifications for granting permits for the renovation of old structures. Local self-government institutions are to verify the strength of a structure and the space around it before issuing the licence for renovation.

Quite often, civic bodies tend to ignore such norms. Stringent action should be taken against civic chiefs and officials who issue licences in violation of rules.