In the area known as Moulivakkam, the catchment area for the nearby Porur lake and Adyar river, the construction of two 11-storey towers of Prime Sristi Housing Ltd, named ‘Belief’ and ‘Faith’, should have raised many eyebrows.
There are no other highrise buildings in the area. Permission for highrises is not easily given, as the soil does not support heavy construction, according to the initial assessment made by the Public Works Department.
But no one objected, and when ‘Faith’ collapsed on Saturday, both the builder and the authorities blamed “natural causes”. The death toll has climbed steadily in the five days since then, and on Thursday, Public Health Director K Kulandaisamy confirmed 60 deaths, a third of them women.
On Thursday, Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa set up a one-man commission headed by Justice (retd) R Reghupathy to “find out whose ignorant attitude resulted in such a mishap”, PTI reported.
And people in the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) and Public Works Department (PWD) are now beginning to ask why permission was given to the unknown building firm of Madurai-based M Manohar for such a highrise project in that area.
“This was Prime Sristi’s first venture in Chennai. He (builder Manohar) is new and unknown in the city. He has done some projects in Madurai, and the safety and stability of those structures is being scrutinized now,” a CMDA official involved in the relief effort at the site said on Thursday.
The official added, “Before allowing an unknown builder to construct two 11-storey buildings, CMDA should have properly scrutinized the architect’s plans and the structural engineer’s reports. There should have been periodic checks to assess the quality of construction, because it is such a big project.”
CMDA’s Member Secretary A Karthik passed the buck to the architect and structural engineer hired by the builder. “As per CMDA’s records, the building plans are perfect and there is no reason to blame us. Once the construction starts, the onus is on the architect and structural engineer to monitor whether construction is going on according to their plans or not, the quality of material being used, and whether there are any transgressions,” he said.
“The CMDA has no role to play in this. After completion, when the builder applies for a completion certificate, we send our team to inspect the quality of construction etc., and if all is well, we give a non-objection certificate for power and water supply,” Karthik added.
The builder got NOCs from the revenue department and fire and emergency services, but not from the PWD.
Karthik said there was no proof that the area is, or ever was, a wetland or catchment area, on the basis of which permission for a highrise could have been denied.
However, state continued…
Victim told the judge that she was being forced to relive the incident as she was made to appear in court again.