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Maharashtra govt plans to prohibit illegal building structural changes

The Maharashtra government plans to amend section 355 (1) of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation Act, 1888 in a serious bid to prohibit structural changes carried out illegally by the occupants of the building leading to their collapse in the city. As per the proposed amendment, the civic body will empanel architects to conduct a survey of the property and issue certificate suggesting structural changes. Thereafter, the competent or planning authority will grant final no objection certificate.

Currently, despite being mandatory to seek a certificate from the engineer and NOC from the BMC for structural changes, the civic body has revealed that such changes are done in most of the cases after the recommendation from interior decorators.

Speaking to DNA, a State urban development department officer informed that the BMC had sent draft amendment but it was returned by the department asking the civic body to make certain key changes.

Incidentally, structural changes include changes in horizontal and vertical existing dimensions of the structure, and thereby increase in area, replacement of any structural RCC member such as columns, beams and load-bearing walls, construction/extension of mezzanine floor/loft, flattening of roof in RCC or repairing and replacing of roof with different materials and enclosure of balcony. These changes come under non-tenable repairs category.

The trigger for the amendment is the collapse of several buildings in the past including Sai Siddhi at Ghatkopar on July 2017 in which 17 tenants died. The inquiry conducted by the BMC revealed that the walls on the ground floor of Sai Siddhi were indiscriminately removed and unauthorised repairs were ongoing even minutes before the collapse. The structure would have survived longer, had it not been tampered with indiscriminately. Further, overexposed RCC columns at the ground level triggered the collapse.

Leading city architect Anant Gadgil said there is a new breed of so-called interior designers who have no knowledge of the structure and they lack formal education in building construction. They are hired by clients to give advice on structural changes. ”With the proposed amendment anybody wanting to carry out structural changes will have to take permission from BMC and due certificate from the architect. This will prevent the collapse of buildings due to structural changes done illegally,” he noted.

BMC engineer, who did not want to be identified, said that in a large number of cases it was found that unqualified interior decorators with zero knowledge of structural safety recommend structural changes. ”It will be mandatory for individual or member of society to obtain technical clearance from the empanelled architect also. Later it will be cleared by the civic body,” he noted.

Further, Maharashtra Societies Welfare Association President Ramesh Prabhu opined that the proposed mechanism will improve the checks and balances on such illegal structural changes which damages the building and reduces its life.

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