To avoid incidents like the one in Mettupalayam on Monday morning where a rickety wall collapsed and killed 17 people, the Greater Chennai Corporation had identified 354 dilapidated buildings across the city that need to be demolished, but issued notice to only 139 of them.
Two-thirds of these buildings, identified in surveys before the monsoon, are located in Royapuram zone, in which falls the traders district of Sowcarpet. “Majority of the dilapidated buildings are in the Sowcarpet area. There is great resistance to demolition of these buildings despite the obvious risk,” said a senior corporation official.
These buildings are old and in poor shape; if the building or some part of it falls on passers-by, it can cause greivous injuries or kill the person, said the official. Such incidents have happened in North Chennai, T Nagar and Nandanam in the recent past.
Corporation assistant and executive engineers conduct spot surveys of old buildings to check for cracks and other signs of disrepair. The age of the buildings is also verified. Residents complaints too are taken seriously.
“Based on this, a call is taken on whether a building needs to be demolished,” an official said. A demolition notice is served, which has to be responded to within 15 days to one month by the resident concerned. If the resident doesn’t demolish the building, the civic body can bring its own equipment and demolish it, while the charges will have to be borne by the resident, said an official.
Alternatively, the resident can either challenge the notice in court or obtain a certificate from the licensed surveyors employed with the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) that the building is safe to live in. Official data show that 15 cases have gone to court out of the 354 buildings identified as dilapidated.
The dilapidated buildings include a library in Pallikaranai and a school building in Chitalapakkam panchayat union.
Of the 140 demolition notices served, 82 were in Royapuram zone where 236 buildings had been identified as dilapidated. In Anna Nagar zone, 42 buildings were identified but only nine were served demolition notices. In Kodambakkam zone, 27 buildings were identified and notices served to 22.
A civic official defended this stating that they undertake the survey and issue notices in September before the rain.
A senior corporation official said they would consider writing to the Chennai MetroWater Supply and Sewerage Board (CMWSSB) and TANGEDCO to cut water, sewage and power connections. “Since we issue the planning permits, we are empowered to do so,” the official said.