How collective apathy of Pune civic officials, occupants put lives at riskhttps://indianexpress.com/article/explained/how-collective-apathy-of-pune-civic-officials-occupants-put-lives-at-risk-5839873/

How collective apathy of Pune civic officials, occupants put lives at risk

The PMC administration springs into action, identifying “unsafe” structures and serving notices to owners and occupants. This is how it has been happening year after year.

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The PMC has declared over 300 structures, most of them old wadas, in the heart of the city as unsafe. (File)

Come monsoon and series of incidents of wall collapse or building collapse takes place in Pune city every year, causing loss of lives and properties. The PMC administration springs into action, identifying “unsafe” structures and serving notices to owners and occupants. This is how it has been happening year after year.

The PMC has declared over 300 structures, most of them old wadas, in the heart of the city as unsafe and urged their occupants and owners to vacate them. There have been incidents of boundary wall collapse recently that killed 21 labourers, besides part of a wada in Raviwar Peth also collapsed a day after it was vacated. The occupants alleged that the PMC did not serve them notice about the structure being unsafe, while the civic administration said an unsafe mark was put on the building.

‘Unsafe’ wada structures

The old structures are major cause of concern during monsoon. In Pune, these structures are in the central parts of city, some are older than 100 years. These structures were constructed with bricks, stones, wood and steel frames. “Civic officials are supposed to visit their assigned area and identify the old structures. The safety of these wadas can be assessed by examining them,” said a PMC official. These structures can be damaged due to corrosion of steel frame, wood getting weak, loosening of the material used in construction walls or trees growing in the old walls.

Usually, if there is a possibility of parts of wada being damaged while the remaining structure is in good condition, then the PMC issues notices of repairing to the owner and occupants. If the repair work is not carried on th damaged part, then the PMC has the authority to vacate and pull down the structure for safety of occupants. However, at times, officials have been alleged to misuse the civic power to help owners get rid of tenants living in their properties for decades at a nominal rental charges. “The main reason for occupants not vacating wadas is because they fear loss of accommodation in prime locality,” said an official.

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Apathy of civic staff

Over the last four decades, only Reinforced Cement Concrete (RCC) construction is allowed in civic limits. Even though there has been no addition to the number of wadas in decades, the PMC does not have the data on the total number of wadas, which makes it even more difficult to monitor the condition of structures every year.

Validation of new structures

The civic building permission department has to carry out minimum three visits to the location of any new building. The first visit is when the permission is sought for construction. The second visit is done after the plinth work starts to ensure that the construction is being done as per the regulations of the civic body. The third visit is done after the construction work is completed.

Life of building

The life of RCC building is expected to be for 100 years, but the state government has issued guidelines to validate the condition of structures after 30 years. Accordingly, buildings have to get the structural audit done after 30 years and it has to be done once every five years after that. “RCC structures rarely collapse if the plinth work and construction is done as per the norms,” said a PMC officer.