Don't expect audits and repairs by BMC on old civic buildings in Mumbai any time soon

It’s been almost 10 days since a building in Dockyard Road came crashing down, and the civic body is still dragging its feet in the matter of thinking up concrete measures on how to prevent a repeat. It’s best not to get your hopes up -- while the BMC has decided to upgrade its methods from largely perfunctory visual surveys of buildings to the more accurate technical surveys, the implementation of this plan could take years, with only 12 consultants on their panel and over 150 of buildings to cover.

Pic/Satyajit Desai

The BMC is to survey more than 150 odd properties -- including all the civic buildings over 30 years of age and dilapidated structures marked as C2 and C2B -- but given the painstakingly slow rate of inspection that the officials have set themselves, many more structures could come crashing down before the task is completed.

Crashed: The four-storey building that collapsed near Dockyard Road on September 27. File pic

The civic body only has 12 structural consultants on the panel to conduct technical audits of municipal buildings in the city that are over 30 years in age. Moreover, these officials claim that they need a minimum of a month to review a single building.

Confirming this, Additional Municipal Commissioner Mohan Adtani said, “We have 12 structural consultants on our panel to review any building in the city, and these consultants would review the buildings in the city that are 30 years plus. We are planning to have more consultants, but the plans are in a primary stage.”

The procrastination has already begun, going by the response of Laxman Vhatkar, who is director of the planning and design department of BMC that is responsible for auditing the buildings structurally. “With just a few consultants, it is difficult to have more buildings audited as early as possible. A technical audit is not just visual inspection – the process will take time. It takes one month to complete the audit of a single building.”

And the BMC’s policy on private buildings is even more lax, if that were possible. The BMC is yet to decide on the status of these buildings, or even take action against those private buildings that have not submitted the mandatory structural audit reports yet.
Only 198 buildings have submitted their structural audit reports to BMC, out of the 5,079 private, government, civic, MMRDA or MHADA buildings that are 30 years old or older.

C1: Buildings that are most dangerous, and cannot be repaired
C2: Buildings that require urgent repairs, and could be dangerous
C2B: Buildings that need structural repairs; this is the least dangerous category

Between audit and repair
The consultants who are on the civic panel will check the quality of the cement used, the life of the RCC columns and beams used, evaluate the kind of repairs that are needed. They will visit each house and office in the building to make sure that no structural changes are being made illegally, which could weaken the structure’s beams and columns.

All the reports are to be submitted within a month, after which the BMC will conduct a review meeting to decide if the building is to be repaired or to be vacated, on the basis of the report. If repairs are recommended, the estimates will be drafted and tenders floated, which will then be presented to the standing committee members, after which contractors will be appointed for the actual repair work. 

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