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One dangerous Karachi building’s race against time to prevent demolition

SBCA says over 400 in city at risk

SAMAA | - Posted: Oct 3, 2020 | Last Updated: 9 months ago
SAMAA |
Posted: Oct 3, 2020 | Last Updated: 9 months ago

What are you supposed to do if one day the Sindh Building Control Authority declares your home dangerous and says you have to leave it?

This was the question that the residents of Jan Plaza in North Nazimabad faced last week. But it is also a question that concerns anyone who lives or owns property in the 400 buildings that have been declared dangerous in Karachi.

The Jan Plaza case provides some answers.

The project was built in 1985 in North Nazimabad Block-K, Scheme 2, which makes it 35 years old. It has 68 flats and 26 shops. The flats are spread over four residential blocks.

Last week, on September 25, some people from the neighborhood told the District Central office that Jan Plaza had repairs going on after cracks in the columns of the residential blocks had appeared.

Some officers visited the building on the same day and asked the resident welfare association to stop work immediately, as it was not being done by any professional engineering firm.

The secretary for the Dangerous Buildings Committee, Benish Shabbir, and the director for North Nazimabad Town, Idrees Abdul Ghaffar, served the residents 3-day ejectment notices.

Ghaffar told SAMAA Digital three to four columns of each block had visible cracks which needed immediate maintenance by a professional engineer. Over the years, as seepage had development from bathrooms in the flats and sewage pipelines, the columns had rotted and cracked open, making the entire structure unstable.

The residents had to leave by September 28. But they have been working with the SBCA to try to figure out a solution. If your building is declared dangerous, you can appeal the SBCA’s decision. In this case, Jan Plaza’s residents have assured the SBCA Technical Committee that they will arrange for a licensed and SBCA-approved engineer who will to give the SBCA surety that they can fix the building properly. The authority will wait till October 7.

Benish Shabbir told SAMAA Digital that the SBCA has given the residents a list of 24 Category A Registered Proof Engineers, who they can engage. “But before starting maintenance work a proper feasibility report should be prepared and submitted before the SBCA officers,” Shabbir added.

The residents said that they were talking to the licensed engineering firm of Engr Muhammad Kamil Dehlvi whose team had visited the site and asked for structural drawings. They will meet on Monday next.

The problem with Jan Plaza is that, much like many other older buildings in Karachi, regular repairs and maintenance had not been carried out over the years. The SBCA has become increasingly stricter about dangerous buildings because there have been several collapses since last year with alarming frequency. In March this year, at least 25 people were killed after a five-storey building collapsed in Gulbahar’s Rizvia.

Karachi’s housing stock is quite old. The oldest buildings are generally found in Saddar where the SBCA says 273 are dilapidated. The others are: 49 such buildings in Lyari, 46 in Liaquatabad, 10 in Gulberg, nine in Jamshed Town, eight in Gulshan Town, six in Malir, four each in Keamari and North Nazimabad, and three each in Baldia Town and Shah Faisal Town.

As with Jan Plaza, the people who rent flats can leave but those who own flats were at risk of losing their investment if the building is demolished. The trouble is that even when the SBCA sends people notices that their building is dangerous, they are loathe to leave because they have nowhere else to go.

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