'Where do we get the raw material for building repairs?'

Updated: Apr 28, 2020, 07:45 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon | Mumbai

Residents and contractors are of the opinion that it is not possible to carry out pre-monsoon repairs amidst the lockdown as most of the areas in city are Corona hotspots and no transport is available for labourers

Geetanjali building in Ghatkopar West
Geetanjali building in Ghatkopar West

With most areas in the city marked as COVID-19 hotspots and no transport available, residents feel that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation's (BMC) circular allowing pre-monsoon repair work and waterproofing in buildings before the onset of monsoon, is nothing but an eyewash. They are of the opinion that if the lockdown continues beyond May 3, it will be practically difficult to complete work before the rains, as no shops selling cement, sand, brick and waterproofing chemicals will be open.

Speaking to mid-day, Somasunderan Nair, director, Intercons Tectonic (Pvt) Ltd, a Vashi-based firm doing engineering and civil construction work, said, "It is just impossible for the labourers to go to different locations with no transportation available. They can't travel between construction sites located in different areas of Mumbai and Navi Mumbai."

Rekhi Sai Daffodils has been undergoing repairs since January
Rekhi Sai Daffodils has been undergoing repairs since January

'All going to waste'
"Also, I had stored raw materials (cement and sand) worth a few lakhs of rupees at different buildings undergoing repairs, but all of it got stalled due to the lockdown," added Nair. He further said, "At one of our Kharghar site, the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) staff had asked the site supervisor to wind up all repair work, and at that time, a ready-mix cement mortar consignment was being offloaded from a Gujarat registered truck. Since the municipal staff warned of '15,000 fine per staff, the workers had no option but to leave the site. Nearly 700 bags of ready-mix cement mortar were offloaded, but I fear that all of it will go to waste. They have been lying unused for over one month and if the lockdown continues, we might have to dispose of the raw materials."

While the BMC has come out with a circular allowing work to be carried out, the NMMC and PCMC are yet to provide any clarity on such repair works.

Exposed beams of Rekhi Sai Daffodils in Kharghar
Exposed beams of Rekhi Sai Daffodils in Kharghar

A Ghatkopar West resident, whose building is under repairs, said, "We have stored some materials in our building premises and have allowed some workers to stay on the compound. Even the contractor is ready to buy construction materials like bricks, cement etc from the local market, but for that we need to know where such outlets are open."

'Apply for online permissions'
When contacted, a senior official from BMC's Development Plan department said, "We have issued the circular which clearly states the directives. As per the directions of the state government, certain activities are being allowed during lockdown. However, the said guidelines were stayed by the government vide GR dated April 21, 2020 for Mumbai Metropolitan Region and Pune Metropolitan Region. However, to save some existing structures/buildings and prevent flood like situations during monsoon, certain construction activities within MCGM limits may be allowed in non-containment zones."

Navre Premises Cooperative society in Sion West
Navre Premises Cooperative society in Sion West

When asked that if the entire city is under lockdown, then how will the circular be implemented, the official said, "It is a fact that most of the areas in Mumbai are containment zones and no work will be allowed there. If the situation is under control after May 3, then as and when the lockdown is lifted, work can be started. Meanwhile, the contractors/societies concerned should apply for online permissions."

And if monsoon sets in by then, the official said, "The contractors can cover the open terraces with tarpaulin sheets and permission can be given for repairs post monsoon."

Expert speak
When contacted, senior lawyer, Vinod Sampat, said, "As far as the BMC is concerned, everyone is interested in protecting their own skin. There is no coordination between government departments. A simple solution can be easily worked out by designating one responsible official for the job. He would ensure that the residents' requirements are easily met and the construction materials are made available to those whose buildings are getting repaired. Secondly, there is no accountability among government officials and they are unpredictable. As far as possible, repair work should not be undertaken immediately. A better way would be to put tarpaulin sheets on the buildings and postpone repair work to the post-monsoon time."

He further said, "Moreover, it is very difficult to get skilled labourers now as most of them want to return home. And lastly, if any of the contractors or their workers test positive for COVID-19, the society managing committee members may be held responsible for not taking proper precaution."

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