Thursday, January 13, 2011


The Housing sector is full of imbalances

In our country the housing scenario is full of classical dichotomies. In a nation where millions are homeless, still there is nothing in the name of affordable housing. In India wherein slums are the biggest problem, there is nothing in the name of town planning. And finally when it comes to the construct ion of the real estate market and the builder mafia, the least said the better.

If one were to write upon each and every concern of the real estate sector, it would run into pages. So, I thought of writing upon a concern which is not just grave but stands hugely neglected and that is with respect to the quality of construction. With no checks in place, no one cares two hoots with respect to quality.

Shoddy construction is no secret! The whole of 2010 saw numerous incidents of buildings collapsing and loss of lives. For example, in November 2010, around 70 people got killed due to a building collapse in Laxmi Nagar in Delhi. Authorities further found 38 more buildings unsafe in the vicinity. In August 2010, around 18 children were killed when a school building collapsed in Uttarakhand following heavy monsoons. Similarly in June 2010, the municipal corporation of greater Mumbai declared 272 buildings unsafe aft er the collapse of a wall in Thane, which killed 8 people. And in January 2010, at least four people died when a building caved in suddenly in Karnataka. In the past five years, Delhi alone has witnessed more than 15 reported major incidents that claimed at least 100 lives, besides many small incidents that go unreported due to a few deaths in remote areas of the city. The BMC last year surveyed and declared 700 dilapidated buildings across Mumbai 'unsafe' for residents during the monsoons, while 35 MCD school buildings were found unsafe in Delhi. And to top it all, a report by Central Building Research Institute (CBRI) revealed that the lifespan of flats at the CommonWealth Games Village, worth Rs 20 crore each, may not be more than 20 years. Even after 13 damaging reports from CBRI, DDA took no action on the glaring construction flaw.

Corruption is rampant. Most of the time small private builders pay bribes to authorities and construct buildings without proper government clearances. They perpetually dodge the quality checks and other inspections that are part of conventional building procedures. Result? One small quake or heavy rainfall either washes away a part of the building or shakes the very foundation of the same. These faulty construction practices are more about systemic failures in governance, regulation and town planning. The current planning and approval system is highly opaque and has no provisions for audits. Furthering the thought, it’s imperative to make space for affordable housing, so that the houses that are declared unsafe can be constructed in a more professional and safer manner. With urbanisation engulfing almost all possible space in a metro in the name of accommodating migrants, provision must be craft ed to house the poor who resort to unsafe and shoddy (even semi-constructed) buildings or embrace the deadly real estate sharks; and eventually lose out on their entire earning, in the search of a safe haven.

Till we don’t put into place an urban housing planning procedure (clubbed with provision of more affordable housing) that sanctions plans according to prevailing conditions and practices a ‘zero tolerance’ attitude against the non-followers, such incidents would continue and rather continue to grow!