Shimla illegal construction

Shimla’s 258 buildings not safe, face quake danger, fire hazard due to congestion

SHIMLA- After an illegally constructed five storey building on a steep slope in Hatkoti Kainchi collapsed and killed people,  the debate over illegal construction in Shimla had erupted again. On the other hand,  the recent collapse of an old building, resulting in the death of a labourer from Chhattisgarh, has raised questions over the safety of 258 ramshackled buildings in Shimla.

The incident is only a pointer to the state of decades-old buildings that dot places such as The Mall, Lower and Middle Bazaars, Jakhu, Chaura Maidan, Lakkar Bazaar, Shankli, Chhota Shimla, parts of Sanjauli in the district.

Though the city lies in seismic zones IV and V and has not witnessed any major earthquake, experts in disaster management say that there is no reason for remaining complacent on imminent risks.

We must learn lessons from the Nepal earthquake that killed over 8,400 people, mostly living in ‘kutcha’

houses, said Viveik Sehgal, a disaster management expert, who was involved in the rescue operation in Nepal.

The Shimla Municipal Corporation (SMC) has done risk-resilience mapping of the city, but it must involve all stakeholders. The city should follow a citizen-centric risk-reduction plan,

he said.

The old buildings in the city are not only vulnerable to tremors, but also to fire hazards due to congestion. The new concrete structures on the loose strata can be at an equal risk, the experts warned.

The successive governments have adopted a freehold lease policy to provide relief to the occupants of old buildings as they have no rights over the land as Main Bazaar, parts of Chhota Shimla and Baluganj are part of the government land, officials said.

Other buildings are disputed properties and the government and the administration can only request occupants to vacate the premises, they said.

Mayor Sanjay Chauhan said they had mapped risks from natural hazards such as earthquakes, landslides, heavy snowfall, and fires.

Now, the SMC has fast-tracked the risk-reduction master action plan involving all departments and government agencies to make the city safe, livable and affordable for its residents,

he said.


File Photo : Representational

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