ONE of the structures protected under heritage law.—White Star
ONE of the structures protected under heritage law.—White Star

KARACHI: The civic administration has asked the provincial authorities to delist more than 50 ‘dangerous’ buildings from the list of structures listed under the Sindh Cultural Heritage Protection Act as protected heritage so that these could be demolished for public safety, sources and officials said on Monday.

They said the Karachi commissioner in a formal request to the Sindh culture, tourism and antiquities department had asked to remove from its list some 55 buildings in the metropolis declared protected heritage.

All the 55 buildings, they said, were found dangerous and could cause any incident.

“In a fresh survey conducted by the Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA) total 422 buildings in Karachi were identified and declared as dangerous and unsafe,” said an official. “Among these 422 buildings, 55 are those declared protected heritage under the Sindh Cultural Heritage Protection Act by the Sindh culture, tourism and antiquities department over past several years. Under the defined rules, one could not demolish, renovate or alter the protected heritage structures.”

SBCA survey finds 422 ‘unsafe’ buildings, including 55 protected heritage structures, in city

The SBCA and the Karachi commissioner office had recently chalked out a plan to demolish all the ‘dangerous’ and ‘unsafe’ buildings to avoid any incident, he said and added that the plan was devised after last month’s incident in Lyari where a multistorey residential building collapsed killing over 20 people.

Before that incident, a building in Rizvia Society, Nazimabad met the same fate in March leaving some 25 people dead.

Occupants being asked to vacate buildings

In line with the fresh plan, he said the civic administration and the SBCA had started sending notices to the occupants of those dangerous buildings, majority of which were still in use.

Many of the protected heritage-declared buildings were also being used for both residential and commercial purposes and the occupants of those dangerous structures had also been sent notices to vacate them.

“But there’s another problem with the buildings declared protected” but that have been found to be dangerous, said the official. “According to the Heritage Act, a protected building or structure could not be damaged or demolished. So even if the buildings are vacated by the occupants, the administration cannot demolish those structures due to this legal cover. Therefore, the commissioner has approached the culture department for the solution.”

The fresh move from the Karachi commissioner came amid ongoing monsoon season when the fears of collapse of vulnerable structures has already increased.

Several incidents during the fresh spell of rains have multiplied fears and the civic administration has further enhanced its efforts to get a nod from the culture department before it’s too late.

“In the recent rains, a young man sustained serious wounds when a portion of a dilapidated two-storey residential building collapsed in Lyari,” said the official. “Another incident was reported in Liaquatabad but fortunately it caused no loss. The area people and officials in both areas have told the authorities that the two buildings were already in bad shape and the recent rains further eroded the already vulnerable structures.”

According to the SBCA survey, he said, 303 of the 422 dangerous buildings are located in district South, 14 in district East and 10 in district Central.

“We are in talks with the occupants of these old and dangerous buildings. One can only hope that they would vacate the buildings but at the same time most of them rely on the government to provide them with alternative accommodation,” said the official.

Published in Dawn, July 21st, 2020