Four people were killed and several injured when a 15 year old three storeyed building came down as a pack of cards on December 3, 2011 in Uttam Nagar, West Delhi. The collapse was triggered due to unauthorized excavation being done in the adjoining plot for construction of a basement floor, this was the fourth such incident during the current year and highlights the Municipal Authorities –builder nexus and the absence of structural engineers. In September this year seven precious lives were lost when a building collapsed in Chandni Mahal in Walled City due to excavation in the adjoining plot. In November, two labourers got trapped in the debris of an under-construction building in Paharganj while digging a basement. After Lalita Park building collapse last year, MCD has identified a number of vulnerable unsafe structures but hardly anything has been done to either demolish them or alternatively to retrofit them.
A team of structural experts from Indian Buildings Congress inspected the Uttam Nagar site and found that unsafe foundation design of the three storeyed building was perhaps one of the reason for its collapse. As per the codal provisions, the isolated foundations of a structure should be properly tied with each other so as to give them ample rigidity in case of seismic forces as well as minor uneven settlement. Further the neighbourer of adjoining plot who wanted to construct a basement should have provided proper underprinting/support to the existing foundations so exposed. Had these two precautions been taken, there would not have any reason for failure of existing building.
The main reason for reoccurrences of such building mishaps is rampant unauthorized construction in the capital. Although the common man does not recognize the importance of structural/civil engineer and is carried away by the false assurances of local builders who are actually responsible for construction of unauthorized structures without any structural design what so ever. The result is well before the society.
The problem is further compounded by regularization of unauthorized colonies in and around the city. The local authorities due to the influence of political parties initially allow development of such localities and subsequently regularize them without taking care that no rescue operations can be carried out in case of a calamity due to narrow roads where Fire Brigade, cranes, trucks etc cannot enter. This situation actually existed in Uttam Nagar area where the lanes are so narrow and with great difficulty the rescue team could somehow manage to get two small JCBs through. There is absolutely no space for them to maneuver properly and work to their full efficiency.