Ghatkopar building collapse: ‘Shitap had tampered with building’s load-bearing pillars’

Among other suggestions involving stricter monitoring of work taken up in buildings, senior civic officials said that there are plans to make certain alterations to the system of giving approvals for all kinds of renovation work.

Written by Arita Sarkar | Mumbai | Published: August 22, 2017 1:33:26 am
 Ghatkopar building collapse case, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), Siddhi Sai Apartments Ghatkopar, Ajoy Mehta, Devendra Fadnavis, Mumbai News, Indian Express News Seventeen persons had died in the building collapse . (PTI)

THE inquiry taken up by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) into the collapse of the four-storey building, Siddhi Sai Apartments in Ghatkopar, has indicated that the accused, Sunil Shitap, had tampered with the load-bearing pillars of the building. The inquiry report has made certain recommendations to avoid such a mishap in the future. Among other suggestions involving stricter monitoring of work taken up in buildings, senior civic officials said that there are plans to make certain alterations to the system of giving approvals for all kinds of renovation work.

Nearly a month after the building collapsed in Ghatkopar, the BMC’s three-member panel, headed by additional municipal commissioner Vijay Singhal, have compiled a report which is expected to be submitted to the municipal commissioner Ajoy Mehta on Tuesday. During the inquiry, Singhal and his team made several visits to the site of the building collapse and recorded the statements of the residents and neighbours who witnessed the incident.

As a first, an independent structural engineer, Chetan Raikar of Structwel Designers and Consultants, used a computer-generated simulation of the incident to understand what caused the building to collapse. Senior civic officials said that the structural engineer tested the debris material, including the iron bars, the bearing capacity of the soil at the site, the strength of the material of the columns and compared the findings with the original building plans. “After adding the witness accounts, we were able to create a simulation of the collapsed building which was congruent to all the facts we had found. All the data suggests that the building was not weak and that Shitap had tampered with the pillars which led the building to collapse,” the civic official said.

In August last year, responding to the complaints of corruption and following the state government’s ease of doing business initiative, the civic body had introduced the system of self-certification where an owner can carry out renovation work within their property as long as they submit certain documents, including a structural engineer’s certificate. The relaxed norms allowed flat owners to carry out renovation work without the BMC’s permission provided no structural changes were made.

In the light of the building collapse, however, the BMC is now planning to make certain alterations to that rule. “We will have to increase supervision on the renovation work, especially in residential buildings. Certain types of tenantable repairs which are currently exempt from permissions, will have to be monitored to ensure such an incident doesn’t happen again. For instance, ‘guniting’, which involved chipping off the concrete layer on a column, can have an impact on the structural stability of a building and will now need prior permission,” said the official.

The collapse of the 40-year-old building had killed 17 people and left 13 others injured and homeless. Shitap, who owned three flats on the ground floor, was arrested following accusations that he had carried out structural changes without the BMC’s permission and had removed load-bearing pillars, causing the building to collapse. While Shitap is in judicial custody, the inquiry report is expected to be submitted to CM Devendra Fadnavis by the end of this week.

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