Demolition of Gulbahar’s five-storey residential building starts

April 03, 2020

Work on the demolition of a five-storey residential building that was constructed on a plot of 72 square yards in Karachi’s Rizvia Colony neighbourhood started on Thursday.The building on plot...

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Work on the demolition of a five-storey residential building that was constructed on a plot of 72 square yards in Karachi’s Rizvia Colony neighbourhood started on Thursday.

The building on plot No. 61/1 in the 400 Quarters area had started to lean to one side on Wednesday and had subsequently gotten vacated by the Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA).

According to the building bylaws, no more than two storeys above the ground are allowed to be constructed on a plot measuring up to 80 square yards. The SBCA, however, is yet to come up with an explanation about who allowed the construction of five floors on a 72-square-yard plot and who issued a fitness certificate for the building.

Early last month, a ground-plus-five residential building in Golimar to which another floor was being added collapsed and brought down two other neighbouring buildings, killing more than two dozen people.

According to the building authority’s Additional Director General Ashkar Dawar, a total of 10 families were living in the Gulbahar building, which had developed major cracks and started leaning to one side due to the construction of additional floors.

SBCA Director Dangerous Buildings Beenish Shabbir said that the adjoining three or four buildings had also been vacated to avoid any losses during the demolition. He said that it would take two to three days to knock down the entire structure. SBCA DG Nasimul Ghani also visited the site to inspect the demolition work.

According to Dawar, the SBCA had declared the building hazardous and asked the residents to vacate it before the lockdown. However, the building authority could not follow up on its notice due to the lockdown.

When asked about the owner of the building, Shabbir said they could not trace the person because offices were closed due to the lockdown and only their demolition team was active to deal with emergencies.

Leaning ‘tower’

A little over three months ago, a ramshackle building in the Gazdarabad neighbourhood (formerly Ranchore Line) that was more than a decade old tumbled down after it had started to lean to one side.

The SBCA had the six-storey Ramzan Tower in Ghughra Street vacated after it had started leaning. As the news about the building leaning towards the ground circulated, media vans started lining up in the area.

“The building collapsed all of a sudden and engulfed the entire vicinity with dust,” said a man named Ashar, who is one of the residents of the neighbourhood. Media persons also recorded the collapse of the building on their cameras. A heavy contingent of police and Rangers officials cordoned off the street in which the building was located and barred the locals from approaching the tilted building.

According to the SBCA, the building developed cracks on December 30, following which it was emptied and the work for its demolition was started. The power and gas supply to the building was immediately cut off after it started to lean.

While the relevant officials were making efforts to bring down the building, the structure collapsed suddenly. There were at least 21 flats in the building. Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah took notice of the building’s collapse and directed Karachi Commissioner Iftikhar Shallwani to initiate an inquiry. The commissioner told the media that fortunately, no one got hurt in the incident because the SBCA had timely vacated the building.

He assured those who had suffered due to the rubble of the building that they would be compensated by the provincial government. Shallwani said that an inquiry has been launched under the supervision of the South deputy commissioner, adding that once the inquiry report is furnished, those responsible will be dealt with in accordance with the law.

An SBCA official said the map of the building was approved in 1987. According to the map, the building was supposed to be single-storey, but the builder ended up constructing additional five storeys illegally. The SBCA had termed the building illegal in 1991, but the builder had obtained a stay order from a court.

The deputy controller of the building authority had written to the legal department of the SBCA in April 1991 mentioning that the building was carrying out unauthorised construction under the stay order.

Therefore, he asked the legal department to get the stay order vacated and to file a contempt application against the builder.

Another reminder was written to the SBCA’s legal department in September 1991 by the controller of buildings in the Ranchore Line Zone. In August 1992, the legal department was once again asked to file a written statement and a counter affidavit to restrain the builder from continuing unauthorised construction.

“The builder has raised the building to the fifth floor in violation of the status-quo orders issued by the honourable court,” reads the letter.

Dawar told the media that there are more than 300 hazardous buildings in the city. He said the building authority wants to demolish all these buildings, but their occupants are not ready to vacate them.

Meanwhile, according to the spokesman for the CM, the chief executive asked the city commissioner and the SBCA to submit their reports to him on the incident. The CM had earlier asked the authorities concerned to ensure that there was no loss of human life while carrying out rescue work at the site of the building’s collapse.

Later, his special assistants Waqar Mehdi and Rashid Rabbani visited the site of the collapse on his orders. Mehdi said that it was a lamentable incident, and that a thorough investigation would be conducted into the incident.

He made the assurance that any official, SBCA employee or builder found responsible for the incident would be taken to task strictly. He said the Sindh government will not abandon the victims of this incident.

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