IN the third such incident of the year, Karachi witnessed another multistorey building collapse, this time in Korangi. Four people died while at least six were treated in hospital. Earlier in June, a five-storey building collapsed in the Lyari area claiming at least 22 lives. Similarly, at least 27 people died in March when another incident occurred in the city’s Gulbahar area. According to the Sindh Building Control Authority, the multistorey residential building was illegal and had been constructed on a plot carved out of an amenity plot, a practice known as china cutting. Though the building was built only four years ago, the recent rains had apparently weakened its foundations when water accumulated in the basement. However, when no lessons are learned, it becomes pointless to ask why the building authorities allowed the illegal allotment and selling of the land and the construction of a building on it in the first place. Numerous such structures exist and a large number of neighbourhoods in the city have been built on amenity plots. With poor-quality construction and frequent violation of building regulations, it is no surprise when such tragedies befall residents living in these death traps.
It is not enough to merely state that such construction is illegal and order an inquiry when buildings collapse. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court too took notice of the poor performance of the SBCA and ordered the Sindh government to overhaul the agency. But it is not the SBCA alone which can tackle the mammoth task of tidying up the numerous unregulated housing societies and structures in a city of 20m. Successive governments have neglected the city’s needs and failed to pay any attention to the grave housing crisis that is now imploding with the mushrooming of illegal structures. To prevent further tragedies of this kind, the authorities must set up an independent oversight body, as per the SBCA Ordinance, that monitors illegal structures and the quality of construction in buildings across the city.
Published in Dawn, September 12th, 2020