In what is being seen as yet another example of the civic administrations indifference to implement a crucial policy,a scheme to conduct mandatory structural audit of buildings older than 30 years is stuck in limbo,five years after it was approved.
The civic administration had planned to make it mandatory for residents and owners to ensure better maintenance of their buildings and facades through a structural audit. In case of a failure to carry out a structural audit,it was proposed that the builder,tenant or owner could be fined or punished by disconnection of electricity or water supply.
Currently,the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) conducts a survey of civic-owned highly dilapidated buildings and gives a notice for either repair or evacuation. While the MHADA is responsible for repairs of cessed buildings,it is a slow process with not more than 50 buildings starting repairs every year. There are 14,995 cessed buildings in the island city,according to official data.
While another senior civic official confirmed that the policy is yet to be formed in totality and get the municipal commissioners nod,the civic administration has already received reminders from the state government to rush the process. Senior officials in the BMC admitted that various departments involved in the process of drafting the byelaws and approving it lack the sense of urgency regarding such policies.
The policy is crucial for old buildings in the city but it has still been lying in the cold storage. I had written a letter to the municipal commissioner last year,urging him to expedite the process. If the Development Control Regulation (DCR) laws were given so much importance by ex-municipal commissioner Subodh Kumar,why did this policy not get any priority? said Standing Committee chairman and Shiv Sena corporator Rahul Shewale.
The mandatory structural audit for all buildings older than 30 years could bring more than 2.5 lakh old and cessed buildings under the net and ensure safety in case of not only big but even small incidents,such as wall or roof collapse.
The mandatory structural audit of buildings was mooted following the collapse of the Laxmi Chhaya building in Borivali in 2007,which claimed 30 lives. The policy also mandates that all structures will have to conduct an audit after every 10 years or as suggested by the engineer or the ward officer. Also,all corrective repairs suggested by the authorities will have to be followed within six months,failure of which will result in heavy penalty based on the property taxes they pay.
While two persons died when a portion of a under-repair building in Byculla collapsed on Wednesday,building and other wall collapse incidents claim numerous lives every year.