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February 16, 2020

Working without head, SBCA yet to initiate inquiry into building that developed cracks

Karachi

February 16, 2020

After persuasion by the district administration, residents of a ground-plus-five storey apartment building constructed on an 80-square-yard plot in Lyari’s Usmanabad area agreed to be relocated in a nearby school on Saturday morning after the structure had developed cracks on Friday.

A fire had erupted on Thursday night on a vacant plot adjacent to the building that houses 11 apartments, after which it developed cracks on the following day. According to residents of the building, it was constructed some six years ago.

After the cracks were reported, a team of the Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA) inspected the building and declared it unsafe. The authority issued a letter to seal the building but the resident initially refused to vacate it and tore the order apart.

Violations of building laws

It has emerged that the building was constructed after severe violations of the law.

According to the building bylaws, not more than two storeys above the ground floor are allowed over an 80-square-yard plot. The SBCA, however, has yet to come up with an explanation with regard to who allowed the construction of six floors on just 80 square yards and who gave the building the fitness certificate as it couldn’t resist the fire that erupted on a plot adjacent to it.

The authorities have also failed to locate the builder. The News has learnt that the building control authority has yet not initiated any

inquiry into the matter, as it is working without its head, who is called

director general (DG), since the past 10 days.

On February 6, the Supreme Court had ordered immediate removal of last SBCA DG Zafar Ahsan among other high-level officers of the authority. After he was removed, Additional DG Ashkar Dawar has not been given charge of the authority by the Sindh government as yet.

Compensation demanded

An elderly female resident of the building demanded an alternative house from the government. “They [the authorities] have forced us to vacate the building, but who would care about us once the building is demolished,” she said and asked the government to hold the builder and the building control authority responsible for the damage.

“We have invested our lifelong earnings in our residential apartment in the building. Where would we go now?” asked another resident, Shafiq Ahmed. He claimed that they had got all the relevant documents from the SBCA.

“If the building was constructed in violation of the bylaws, why was permission granted to its construction in the first place?” he asked and demanded compensation from the government. “We want amount equal to the current value of the flat.”

Immediate demolition

According to SBCA Senior Director Ali Mehdi who heads the team that was tasked with getting the building vacated, the building was in dangerous condition and needs to be evacuated in order to prevent any tragic incident.

Speaking to The News, SBCA Katchi Abadi Director Muhammad Raqeeb said that the building developed cracks after the fire broke out. The damaged building, he said, would be sealed and then demolished. “The residents have left the building, but they are not ready to move their stuff out,” he said and added that the South deputy commissioner (DC) had to play his role in negotiating with the residents.

When asked how dangerous the building is, he said they wanted to demolish it immediately as it could be dangerous for the buildings nearby. “The building has tilted around five inches from its actual position. There’s another building just adjacent to it. Imagine what would happen if it collapses,” he said.

To a query about any inquiry against the builder and those who granted permission to construct six floors over 80 square yards, Raqeeb said the decision had to be taken by the SBCA DG.

Meanwhile, the director demolition of the SBCA, Sajjad, said that as for now, they wanted to prevent further damage. The South DC, he said, had to decide about the compensation, and the authority needed to demolish the building as it could cause damage to other structures in the vicinity.

South Deputy Commissioner Irshad Ali, however, has assured that the government would provide the residents a relief package as per the law. As for the stuff of residents still present inside the building, he told The News that the building authority had been asked to determine if the building was in a condition that heavy luggage could be brought out from it.

“If we send the rescue teams inside the building and it collapsed, who would be responsible?” he asked. When asked about the whereabouts of the builder, he said he was personally making efforts to locate him.