Tuesday's mishap in suburban Ghatkopar in Mumbai, where at least 17 people were killed due to a building collapse, once again brought to the fore the issue of the city's many dilapidated structures.
It was an accident waiting to happen, locals said. An infant and seven women lost their lives in the incident. According to those who lived in the Siddhi Sai Cooperative Housing Society, the pillars of the building weakened due to the renovation of a nursing home on the building's ground floor, reportedly owned by local Shiv Sena leader Sunil Shitap.
The building was a 35-year-old structure, which housed around 15 families, according to media reports.
The incident also highlights civic apathy towards the dangers of old, weakened structures, which continue to be occupied.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), had identified 796 such structures ahead of the monsoons, however, till March 2017, only 186 of these buildings were demolished (23 percent), while 117 were evacuated (14 percent), according to a report in the Hindustan Times.
The BMC, every year, categorises old and dilapidated structures into three categories: C-1, C-2, and C-3. The C-1 category is rated most dangerous, which the BMC deems beyond the scope of repair and terms 'dilapidated' in its report.
Buildings categorised as C-2 requires major structural curation and buildings in the C-3 category need minor repairs. The C-1 category buildings were termed as "dilapidated" in the survey report. The BMC had initiated action on the report under the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act, 1888.
As a precautionary measure, the civic body conducts structural audit before sending notices to residents to vacate the premises each year ahead of monsoon. After this, the BMC disconnects power and water supply to the buildings to force residents to evacuate before it moves in to demolish the structure, according to Asian Age.
However, many such structures continue to be occupied despite repeated warnings from the civic body.
A report in Mumbai Mirror points out how legal tangles, protests by residents, and other technical issues are giving BMC a tough time.
“In some cases, residents have managed to get a stay from the court, while in a few cases the BMC’s technical advisory committee is yet to take a call,” the report quoted a senior civic official as saying.
The officer also told the newspaper that the BMC can order evacuation or demolition of a building only after a technical committee hears both parties over multiple sessions, which makes it a time-consuming process.
Forty-five such cases from the C-1 category are pending for hearing with the technical committee. The BMC has also submitted an affidavit in the Bombay High Court regarding these buildings, which are currently occupied.
According to a list put out by the municipal body for the year 2017-18, Kurla (96) has the maximum number of buildings listed in the C-1 category followed by Ghatkopar (63).
Here is the full list of the buildings tagged under C-1 category:
Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis visited the site late Tuesday night. "An offence has been registered and police are investigating. I have directed the BMC commissioner to submit a report within 15 days," he said.
Municipal commissioner Ajoy Mehta, who also visited the site, announced that a committee comprising deputy municipal commissioners would be set up to look into the incident. That committee would submit its report within 15 days, Mehta said.
Building collapses have been in the news lately. Just days before the Tuesday's mishap, two residential buildings in the Maharashtra Nagar Mhada Colony, Thane collapsed due to heavy rains. A major accident was, however, averted as the buildings, constructed in 1995, were vacated in 2010 to allow redevelopment. Forty families had been living in the buildings.
According to a written reply by the government in the legislative Assembly about unsafe buildings in the metropolis, a survey by the BMC earlier this year had identified 617 such structures.
Updated Date: Jul 26, 2017 15:26 PM