CHENNAI:The news of a four-storey building in New Delhi collapsing a day ago, leaving five dead and injuring eight, only serves to remind us that Chennai does not lag far behind in the number of structures crumbling, reducing concrete to rubble.
Over the course of the year, Chennai was witness to various levels of structural collapse, some, in part at least, triggered by work on the Metro. A two-storeyed building in Shenoy Nagar sunk more than a foot into the ground unable to withstand the vibrations stemming from the tunnelling underneath. In Mannadi, a few buildings developed fissures along its facade. With weak foundations, sewage seepage and taking more loads than capacity, these fault lines run deep.
“Many fly-by-night contractors do not have engineering backgrounds and want to complete projects and make profits in a short time. But the lesser time and cost invested, the greater the risk. This is because every construction needs a proper resting time,” says Shailaja, an architect.
While some of the oldest buildings in the City lying on the metro corridor continue to stand strong, cluster houses that are less than two decades old in Anna Nagar have sunk several inches into the ground. The collapse of the residential tower in Moulivakkam continues to rankle minds.
The National Disaster Mitigation Authority (NDMA) has recommended building guidelines available in the form of booklets and is a requisite for all builders and buyers to be aware of before investing in a project. It also addresses the issue of disaster-proofing buildings to weather a cyclone or quake.
“Of course if it is going to be a quake of high Richter scale, there is no telling.
But resilient buildings provide the leverage time to secure your belongings and plan an exit in case of an emergency. A flat built on a tank bed or farm land for instance, could just come crumbling down,” says an insider in the construction business. Experts also draw attention to the need for an air-tight regulation to be in place to avoid oversights and mishaps. “The Engineer’s Bill, if passed, would give way for building structures to be overseen by engineers without a lapse. Structural safety is neither assessed nor certified at the moment,” says professor SR Satish Kumar, Department of Civil Engineering, IIT Madras.