ISLAMABAD: The National Disaster Management Authority (NMDA) has proposed that non-compliance of the Pakistan Engineering Council’s (PEC) Building Code-2007 should become a punishable offence, Dawn learnt on Friday.

The proposal was sent to the relevant government quarters keeping in view the loss of lives and buildings in different incidents and the Oct 26 earthquake that affected many parts of the country.

According to the code, it was proposed that all new buildings should be constructed to bear earthquakes with a magnitude of nine. However, it is being considered that the capacity for new buildings should be fixed at 10.

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Due to frequent fire incidents in major cities, the PEC has also been tasked to prepare a fire safety code and incorporate it into its building code.

The main task for the federal government and the NDMA will be the implementation of the building code – which will be difficult because after the 18th Amendment, housing became a provincial subject.

Talking to Dawn, NDMA’s senior board member Ahmed Kamal said the authority had proposed punishment for those responsible for not implementing the PEC code not only at the federal but the provincial and district levels as well.

“We have so far not decided what punishment should be given to the violators but it will be up to the federal government to propose the punishment and get it passed from the relevant forums,” said the spokesman.

By including the provision of punishment, incidents like an industrial building collapsing recently in Lahore and claiming more than 35 lives could be averted, he added.

The NDMA, he said, had sent a summary proposing the punishment to the ministry of climate change from where it would be forwarded to the housing ministry which would refer it to the federal cabinet through the law ministry.

“In fact we have proposed that the provision of punishment should be included in the enforced building code,” he said.

Mr Kamal said the rules and codes of the PEC had already been implemented in all provinces and enforcement of any amended code would not be a problem. “Once the code is amended, it should be the duty of the provincial governments and local authorities to implement it,” he said.

The NDMA has also suggested that the amended code should be passed through the national and provincial assemblies so that no hurdle could come in its way.

SURVEY OF BUILIDINGS: Meanwhile, the NDMA has tasked authorities in Islamabad and Survey of Pakistan (SoP) to conduct separate surveys to give the it a complete picture of the condition of buildings in the federal capital and northern parts of the country that were hit by a recent earthquake.

It was learnt that except two or three high-rise buildings, most of the buildings in the capital were built to withstand a quake measuring seven. They claimed that none of the buildings had suffered any structural problems after the Oct 26 earthquake, except cracks appearing in some walls. When contacted, the president of the Islamabad Citizen and Developer Association (ICDA), Chaudhry Naseer, supported the idea of fixing responsibility of any fault in a building and punishment to the officers responsible.

He said the development or civic authorities, including the Karachi Development Authority, Lahore Development Authority and Capital Development Authority, lacked capability to monitor the construction of buildings.

Published in Dawn, November 7th, 2015

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