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Construction activity under third eye?

A high-level probe into the collapse of a building under construction at Narayanaguda recommends third party supervision on construction activity



A file picture of the under construction building which collapsed in Narayanguda in February this year.

Mortgage clause, stiff penalties and the ever looming threat of demolition nothing seems to deter unauthorised constructions or deviation from the sanctioned building plan or for that matter sub-standard quality structures.

If the collapse of a building under construction at Narayanaguda in February this year which resulted in 13 deaths has laid bare the inadequacies of the Municipal Corporation in regulating building activity either due to connivance of officials or callousness. It also led doubts about the planning staff's competence. These have been confirmed now that a high level team of officials which probed the incident has admitted failure of supervision and has recommended the government to institute a third party supervision of construction activity. The building architect should also give a status report whenever each floor is raised.

It also suggested rescue teams be trained in disaster management with appropriate tools to cut steel- cement slabs and thermal imaging cameras at the respective zonal offices. But, surely the ‘outsider' regulation has raised eyebrows.

“We are only seeking a self-regulatory mechanism and it's always desirable instead of getting coerced by the municipal staff,” argues GHMC Additional Commissioner (Planning) K. Dhananjaya Reddy. Builders can also avoid regular interaction with the lower rung field staff who is generally accused of looking the other way when deviations or sub-standard constructions happen, he says.

Accountable

A third party regulator whether architects or others can always be taken to task through their respective professional bodies in case of misdemeanours is the reasoning.

Fact also is most of the town planning staff are not technically qualified to either supervise or regulate building activity. Class four staff has become section officers without town planning knowledge and even more startlingly, there are no structural engineers or architects to scrutiny high rise buildings in GHMC.

“We have been seeking the help of civil engineering departments of Osmania University and JNTU to check structural drawings of multi-storied buildings because we do not have qualified staff to do the job,” admits Mr. Reddy.

The department is also terribly understaffed with only one-third of the required number on the rolls. “The entire West Zone comprising of Serilingampally, Kukatpally, Patancheru, etc., almost equivalent to old MCH region, has witnessed hectic building activity in recent years yet our planning staff is less than 20. They are supposed to vet files, inspect, regulate, remove encroachments, etc.,” he points out.

Deputations too have been difficult to come by since the Directorate of Town and Country Planning (DTCP) itself is facing a severe staff crunch. “We definitely need to induct more staff even laterally from building inspectors to architects and structural engineers. The Government has been sounded about urgency of the requirement. We can ensure proper enforcement and garner revenue too if it is done,” insists Mr. Reddy.

V. GEETANATH

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