Blame global warming for building collapses, says top MHADA official

Oct 10, 2013, 05:19 IST | Varun Singh

Prasad Lad says that extreme rainfall coupled with extreme heat is the reason behind crumbling buildings; the fact that some of the structures are over a 100 years old and in need of immediate repair has not crossed the board chairman's mind.

All the wisdom from around a warming globe came to simmer in a housing official from MHADA yesterday, when he blamed climate change for buildings toppling like Lego houses in the city, killing hundreds of citizens.

New theory: Prasad Lad, chairman of Mumbai Building Repair and Reconstruction Board. Pic/Rane Ashish

At an interaction at MHADA headquarters on Wednesday, the Mumbai Building Repair And Reconstruction Board chairman, Prasad Lad, said, “Global Warming is the reason behind building collapses.”

Rubble logician: Prasad Lad, chairman of MHADA’s Mumbai Building Repair and Reconstruction Board, at his office in Bandra (East) yesterday. Pic/Rane Ashish

When we asked him to explain scientifically how such a process may come about, Lad imparted the following lesson that seems to emanate from a creative reading of thermodynamics, meteorology and structural science:

“These days, there’s extreme rains, because of which water seeps into the buildings. There is also extreme heat, which further damages the building.”

Here, we wanted to ask him why every edifice in Mumbai, or parts of world sharing Mumbai’s climate, was not falling apart-- global warming is a global phenomenon,after all. But Lad threw us some factoids. “We are facing extreme climatic changes, and this year (monsoon) alone we have seen 8-10 buildings collapsing, including those at Mumbra.”

‘Theory’ debunked
So as not to be one of those global warming deniers much reviled by environmentalists, MiD DAY decided to see if Lad’s scientific acumen found any takers among experts in the field. However, structural engineers all but scoffed at the line of reasoning offered by Lad.

Structural engineer Chetan Raikar said, “In my opinion global warming is not the reason for buildings falling apart. Pollution may lead to corrosion of buildings, which calls for timely maintenance. But global warming is not it.”

He added, “I have studied various collapses and found that most buildings came down because of “adventurous” moves by certain people in the building.” He paused to clarify that by ‘adventure’ he meant structural changes. “Building deterioration and collapse are two different things. Concrete dwellings don’t tear down in a moment due to deterioration, unless the basic fabric is totally affected.”

Raikar’s colleagues concurred.

Lad’s board has nearly 16,000 buildings that are old, even ancient; some date back to a hundred years ago. The prime agenda of the board is to identify all rundown structures, evacuate them, and issue no-objection certificates so the buildings can be renovated.

But its officials seem busy garnering non-empirical data and formulating random and false theories.

These structures with the board are cessed buildings, that is, they pay a cess (tax) to MHADA for their maintenance and upkeep. Every year, the board releases a list of the most dangerous buildings in Mumbai. This year, it identified 12 such buildings, which includes Esplanade Mansion in Fort.

Weird science: Not a first
This is not the first time that a statement of such questionable credibility has come from a MHADA official holding an important office.

Earlier in the year, the housing authority had asked residents occupying its rundown and dangerous buildings to tread softly in their houses, so as not to bring the whole structure down to the ground. (‘Walk softly, MHADA tells residents of dilapidated buildings’, June 16, MiD DAY, 2013.)

At another instance three years ago, when some chambers in Dockyard Road had fallen apart, MHADA’s then chief engineer had said seeping water was responsible for the collapse. (‘Leaky pipes? Your roof could fall’, October 1, 2010)

‘50% transit camps encroached upon’
A day before Lad went public with his visionary ‘global warming’ logic, he claimed there were nearly 20,000 transit camps in the city where people from collapsed buildings are given a temporary accommodation. According to Lad, nearly 10,000 homes belonging to residents of dilapidated buildings are illegally encroached upon.  

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