Property development projects causing grave danger to city dwellers
27, Feb 2018 – The rapid growth of multi story apartments and high-rise offices around the city in a haphazard and unplanned manner, have caused untold hardships to countless citizens in the recent past. You only have to drive down a road and witness the strange sight of a multi-story construction rising menacingly over the adjoining one story residence, most often constructed without leaving any space between the two boundary walls.
There have been two incidents in the recent past – the collapse of buildings in Wellawatta & Grandpass which have resulted in the death of eight people – which augurs the sad state of affairs at the Municipal Council and UDA. The negligence displayed by these authorities with regard to certificates of conformity and lack of proper monitoring has led to the death of 8 people.
I have personally experienced this gross negligence – or could it be wilful laxity due to large sums of money exchanging hands by both the Colombo Municipality & UDA? Our home is located down a road where majority of the buildings are residential houses in the heart of Colombo. However on the sale of the neighbouring residence to a large company, the nightmare started.
The deep excavation process during the “wall to wall” construction of a multi-storeyed apartment without the required metal shoring caused a soil shift, leading to large cracks appearing in several parts of the house. In addition, the terrazzo tiles on the floor developed massive cracks. Several calls to the police and complaints to the Municipal authorities proved fruitless. Several visits to the municipality and meetings with the Director City Planning also proved fruitless.
In desperation, a meeting with the UDA Chairman & UDA officials was arranged. The Chairman requested the attending officer to call for the file from the Municipality and arrange an inspection, whether the new construction was in conformance with the plan. Several weeks of calling revealed that the requested file had not been received. It was evident that orders were deliberately disobeyed despite the UDA being vested with powers over the Municipality of Colombo.
It was shocking to witness the number of residents who were present at the UDA premises to complain at the destruction being done to their homes. All had the same story to tell. Many complaints had been made but no results were seen. A certain lady bemoaned that her house had been newly constructed and was now damaged beyond repair. Further the developers had not even paid insurance. It was sad to see that several retired and aged folk also being forced to undergo the hassle of visiting the UDA premises to make a complaint.
When an ancestral home, lovingly built with several years of hardship and sacrifice is damaged by callous property developers, without the slightest regard or even compensation, the situation has sunk to a new low. If residents who have lived for years in their home are now faced with damaged & cracked homes due to the wilful negligence of authorities responsible, the citizenry are now faced with a frightening prospect.
It is the primary responsibility of the Municipality and Government to protect city dwellers from the scourge of unscrupulous property developers who will stop at nothing to earn extra profits. Deep excavations in and around residential areas have further weakened the foundations of homes in the area.
Currently elected Mayor Rosy Senanayake, please take note of this alarming new trend and also take strong measures to prevent wrongful plan approvals by corrupt authorities at the Colombo Municipality.
It is also the responsibility of engineering institutions in the country to implement safety regulations, so that constructions will not pose a risk to houses in the vicinity. In developed countries, due to zoning restrictions, high rise buildings cannot be constructed next to residential homes. Further there are rigorous safety regulations which cannot be breached.
It is high time that those in authority take action to protect homes & lives of innocent citizens from this menace.