The Chandigarh Housing Board has given a nod to need-based changes in its dwelling units despite a report from consultants, roped in to assess the structural stability, specifying that the alterations made do not satisfy the basic seismic requirements ie these dwelling units are highly vulnerable to earthquakes. The need-based changes were to be approved only after ascertaining structural stability of the dwelling units.
Punjab Engineering College was hired to assess the structural stability of the same, while the study was conducted by Civil Engineering Department. In a confidential report accessed by Chandigarh Newsline, it was found that these changes do not satisfy basic seismic requirements and certain specifications were required to qualify these requirements, which are crucial in ensuring structural stability of the building.
The report specifies,“The existing buildings of Chandigarh Housing Board under evaluation for alterations do not satisfy seismic requirements even for category B of masonry buildings. As such, all additions and alterations to the present structures do not satisfy seismic requirements under present conditions and hence, need to be strengthened in accordance with relevant provisions of IS 4326-2013. As per IS 4326-2013, various masonry buildings have been categorised as B, C, D, E.”
Just ahead of the Lok Sabha elections of 2019, BJP had announced regularisation of the need-based changes, as made in nearly 50,000 dwelling units of the board by the residents. Approval of need-based was a poll issue this time as it affect people living in all these units, who also constitute a major vote bank. These residents flouted rules by making alterations in these units. A survey of 61,067 CHB dwelling units revealed that 90 per cent people made changes to their units. As the CHB started sending notices to people for violations, representations from residents were sent to the board and local MP Kirron Kher, who then took up the issue.
Chairman of the Chandigarh Housing Board AK Sinha was contacted, who further referred to Chief Engineer of the CHB.
Chief Engineer Rajiv Singla told Chandigarh Newsline, “ The buildings were approved as per codes that time. These codes keep revising. Otherwise, norms have been complied with.”
Alterations that were allowed
The CHB had allowed additional construction in the rear courtyard or terrace of each dwelling unit with the condition that the total area not exceed over 150 sq ft or 50 per cent of the area of the courtyard or terrace, whichever is less.
The board had also approved construction of one additional door in the dwelling units. The owners of dwelling units were also allowed to shift the main gate from the side boundary wall to the front boundary wall of the front courtyard. The owners were allowed to construct lifts as per the designs approved by the Plan Approval Committee.
The board had even agreed to increasing the size of the existing windows of the dwelling units by lowering the sill levels up to 4 inches above floor level.