CHENNAI: Justice R Reghupathi commission of inquiry that probed collapse of an 11-storey building at Moulivakkam last year said the other surviving building at the site resembled the ill-fated block "in terms of all short-falls and deviations that contributed to the mishap". The soil is loose, sandy and watery and pile foundations were not laid for a depth of 18 metres. On the reason for the collapse of the building, the report said it was built primarily with a raft foundation and pillars were knocked off to accommodate driveways. Experts who inspected the building detected insufficient concrete settings, cracks and punctures in columns.
The report said the "present tragedy is a self-speaking parable" and said it was not known how many projects, both completed and under-construction, suffered from similar deficiencies. "The present instance is the best example about the dark-side behind the real estate and construction business where money is considered to be the only ambition and aim, and lives of human beings and customers are put at stake to test the duration of the feeble constructions raised by them.
Noting that regulatory agencies lacked technical experts the commission recommended sweeping changes in CMDA's functioning including setting up of a committee comprising technical experts from CMDA, legal officers and experts in soil investigation, foundation design and structural engineering to carry out field inspections at every stage of construction of mega projects. The committee should inspect buildings at various stages including earth work stage, laying of foundation, basement and concreting of each floor, the report said.
Even though Tamil Nadu government has a directorate of vigilance and anti-corruption, Raghupathi has suggested setting up of a vigilance wing to keep a check on hidden and underhand transactions between officials in the regulatory agency and developers.
As regards the loss suffered by customers who had invested in the ill-fated building and neighbours, whose houses were damaged in the disaster, the commission has urged the government to set up a committee to assess the loss and pay compensation by drawing money from the state disaster relief fund. Buyers were still repaying loans though their apartments were completely razed, the commission pointed out and said it felt the need to go beyond its brief and suggest ways of assuaging their sufferings.
Reacting to media reports that the government and the regulatory agency flouted norms by giving permission for high-rise buildings on a narrow road, the report said, "Prima facie it appears there is no violation on the part of CMDA and the government in recommending relaxation (of norms)."
While developers welcomed most of the recommendations of the commission, they have reservations against retaining money from contractors for 10 years. "CMDA already retains a deposit from developers. Blocking more money as surety will add to project cost," said a city developer.