Following Thursday”s collapse of the top six storeys of Lodhi Arcade (China Tower) in Shah Alam Market, the Punjab government has directed the district administration to make a survey of all “illegal” residential buildings in the Walled City, sources in the provincial government told Daily Times on Sunday.
Officials said that Punjab Chief Minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi met top district administration officials on Friday and was told that apart from illegal commercial construction, one of the most dangerous aspects of the Walled City was the decrepit state of old residential complexes and buildings, which would collapse if hit by any natural calamity.
Officials said that in addition to launching an effective operation against illegal commercial buildings, the city government was under pressure from various quarters to take action against old and unauthorised residential units. However, a major hurdle in the effective implementation of this measure was the fact that hundreds of residents would have to be displaced.
Officials said that the chief minister had asked officials of the planning and development department to ascertain the exact number of buildings which were unsafe or illegal so that the necessary remedial measures could be initiated.
A senior bureaucrat, commenting on the government”s proposed policy, said that without educating the people about the extent of the risk they faced from their residential units, they could not be convinced of the threat they faced. The official, a former Lahore deputy commissioner, said that unless proper arrangements were made to provide these people alternative housing, no operation could be completed.
Officials said that to ensure the proper implementation of the operation against dangerous buildings, the provincial government had transferred administrative powers from building inspectors to enforcement inspectors. However, the transfer of administrative powers could also cause procedural delays. Talking about the expected administrative hazards, officials said that the town administration had been using Section-141/142 of the Punjab Local Government Ordinance to combat the issue of unauthorised buildings including dangerous buildings and encroachments. They said that through these sections, building inspectors were empowered to forward the challans of violators to special judicial magistrates for trial.
However, under the amended ordinance, inspectors would request the police station concerned to register a case, which would then be tried under the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).
Apart from procedural concerns, another problem the district government is facing is with the maintenance or demolition of old or decrepit buildings. Officials said that most building owners had rented their properties to different tenants at throwaway prices because of the bad condition of the buildings. They said that the building”s occupants often obtained stay orders from the courts against any action.
According to an initial survey by town administrations, Ravi Town has more than 1,500 dangerous buildings in the Walled City, Shah Alam market, Badami Bagh and Ravi Road, of which 250 are “very dangerous”. Officials said most of them were situated in the Walled City, at Shah Alam Gate, Bhaati Gate, Gumti Bazar, Masti Gate, Kashmiri Gate and Lohari Gate. Several people have died in building accidents in these areas in the past.
Samnabad Town has 64 dangerous buildings, according to the survey, of which 27 are “very dangerous”. Most of the dangerous buildings in the town are in Samanabad, Ichhra, Bastami Road and Mozang. There are 125 dangerous buildings in Shalimar Town, most of which are in Mughalpura and Baghbanpura. About 25 of them are “very dangerous”. Nishtar Town has 35 dangerous buildings, most of them on Chungi Amradsidoo, Ferozpur Road, Raiwand, Kahna and Faisal Town.
Traffic Engineering and Planning Agency Chief Engineer Khushal Khan, heading the committee probing the Lodhi Arcade incident, has called a meeting of the committee on Tuesday. Talking to Daily Times, Khan said the committee would complete its report soon.
Sorce: Daily Times