KARACHI: The expansion plan of the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation (SIUT) has been on a standstill for almost a year as the country’s largest kidney disease centre and one of the biggest public sector health organisations waits for the authorities to remove dangerously weak buildings around the facility — “most of them are illegally occupied” — which may collapese amid any demolition and construction activity, sources and officials said on Sunday.
They said the SIUT was donated a decades-old multistorey building named Khadijat-ul-Kubra Building located on Yaqub Khan Road neighbouring the existing facility. The management of the institute, they said, planned a state-of-the-art new unit in the same building as it offered an ideal location for the facility to expand its services. As the plan was put on paper and experts concerned were called to design and execute the construction of the new unit, it emerged that it was not that easy.
“In a jungle of old multistoried buildings in old city area of Karachi many structures are in a dilapidated condition, posing imminent threat of collapse or any possible disaster,” said a official. “The SIUT which is located in the same area with many buildings rubbing shoulders with the hospital building has now drawn the attention of civic agencies and local administration to take a preemptive action in view of the thickly populated area and heavy flow of patients in the area.”
The donated Khadijat-ul-Kubra Building, he said, was needed to be demolished for expansion and redesigning of the structure in line with the requirement of the new unit. But unfortunately, the building has decades-old dangerous structures all around and any activity to demolish Khadijat-ul-Kubra Building and use of heavy machinery can put the fate of a number of such vehicles at risk, he added.
‘Civic agencies have been asked to carry out a survey of old buildings in the area as many of them are over a century old’
“Now it’s a very tricky situation for the SIUT,” he said. “On one hand it has been running out of time for the expansion of the facility and on the other it can’t go for demolition and construction activity because of the people living in the buildings close to Khadijat-ul-Kubra Building. The delay in the construction of a new unit is in fact loss of everyone. The delay means that dozens of kidney treatment services, including dialysis and transplantation, are being delayed to hundreds of thousands of people.”
When asked about any contact between the SIUT and the authorities concerned on the issue, the spokesman for the institute said the health facility had informed all relevant organisations, including the Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA), and the local administration had been approached multiple times and requested for the required action that included resettlement of the people who had been occupying the weak structures around Khadijat-ul-Kubra Building before any action on the dangerous building. The SIUT, he said, had suggested to the civic agencies to carry out a survey of old buildings in the area as many of them were over a century old, posing threat to life and property of the people.
The technical committee for hazardous buildings of the SBCA in 2016 had declared as many as 316 buildings dangerous in the city owing to their dilapidated basic structures. Among them four were those which had been declared national heritage.
‘We would definitely take action’
Already under serious criticism for ignoring violations of building rules and alleged connivance with the builders mafia, the SBCA does not sound very much concerned about the SIUT’s plea. However, officials agree that the health facility is surrounded by a number of dangerous buildings and the SBCA’s relevant wing would soon be moving in to solve the problem.
“Our committee for hazardous buildings has details of all those structures which pose threat to people’s life and property,” said SBCA director general Zafar Hasan. “We would definitely take action and look into the matter. No one can deny the services of the SIUT to the poor people and we firmly believe that its expansion would greatly help a number of people of this country. So at the SBCA we would make sure that any development activity should not come to a halt due to any illegal or other issue.”
Published in Dawn, January 20th, 2020