Collapsing old buildings of the metros in the country – Is there a solution?
1) The buildings of Mumbai and every other metro are aging. Every passing seasonal cycle of summer, monsoon and winter are causing further deterioration in the cement and steel of RCC structures by rusting and cracking. Therefore, every passing year, the load-bearing capacity of the RCC of every building deteriorates by small percentage like 0.2 to 1%.
2) Older buildings deteriorate at a faster rate e.g. 1% per year. If they are well-maintained, this rate of deterioration may be reduced to 0.5%, effectively increasing its life span by many years.
3) Unfortunately, many buildings have been made into “sick” buildings over the past decade by short-sighted cooperative societies neglecting them, in the lust for getting them declared as “dilapidated”, so that they go into commercial redevelopment. The load bearing capacity of the RCC of such buildings deteriorates by 5-10%. These buildings are like ticking time-bombs, waiting to collapse.
4) In the monsoon, the rain-water seeps into the walls and ceilings of such neglected structures, increasing their weight by several thousand kilograms. This additional weight is distributed unevenly on the RCC frame, making it extremely vulnerable to sudden structural failure. These buildings cannot continue to be occupied. Ignoring them is a criminal negligence on the part of the government and municipal corporations.
5) It is urgent to vacate and demolish hundreds or thousands of such critical buildings before they collapse due to natural causes in the coming monsoons. There is simply no other alternative. These must be demolished and rebuilt under supervision of an empowered government body.
6) A timetable for performing emergency repairs on thousands of other buildings is a must. These are not yet critical, they will inevitably become critical and dangerous if neglected for another 3-4 years. This must also be done under supervision of an empowered government body.
7) Unfortunately, it is financially unviable for all the thousands of buildings of Mumbai to be redeveloped and rebuilt simultaneously. Therefore, a priority list will have to be made by the government agency after scrutiny.
8) Many MLAs, MPs and corporators are already builders. These persons are aware of the deterioration, but they are using their knowledge for their own private benefit. The knowledge of these persons must be harnessed.
9) On a conservative estimate, more than 80,000 flats are lying vacant all over Mumbai. They belong to builders, estate agents and investors. Such flats should be requisitioned by the government and municipal corporations, and used for immediately resettling the people living in dangerous buildings.
10) For all the above-mentioned work, which is urgent, new laws must be passed, and a new government agency must be constituted under the urban development ministry.