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Safety concerns for people living close to high-rises

- SANJEEV GIRI, KATHMANDU
Safety concerns for people living close to high-rises

May 19, 2015-

“My house is intact, but I am not being able to stay inside,” said Chandra Kanta Khanal, a resident of Dhapshi, whose house is just a stone’s throw from the Park View Horizon Apartment.

Not only the 213 apartment owners, but also 165 households in the vicinity have been forced to relocate fearing a possible collapse of the apartment buildings due to frequent aftershocks. “Every night when there is a small tremor, women and kids start crying. We are compelled to take shelter under a tent,” Khanal said.

Another Ramesh Kunwar, whose house is just six metres away from the 17-storey building, says they are living under constant threat. “An engineer who had come for the inspection said there are chances my house will be hit by the top most portion of the apartment building. Imagine a chunk of concrete from a 17 storey building falling over my roof,” Kunwar added. “Worsening the situation, the aftershocks are continuing.”

As many as 50 people from the vicinity on Monday gathered on the premises of the Department of Urban Development and Building Construction (DUDBC) to make authorities aware about the issue. The team had made an unsuccessful attempt to meet DUDBC Director General Sambhu KC on Sunday. The same fate continued on Monday. “The officials say KC is busy in meeting or is outside the office for meeting,” Kunwar said.

The team, however, managed to enter the office of Buddhi Sagar Thapa, head of the Kathmandu division at DUDBC. Thapa told them the DUDBC has received a proposal from the Kathmandu District Administration Office for forming a high-level taskforce to assess Park View. “I am forwarding this proposal to the department right away,” he said during the meeting.

Not only Park View, most of the high-rise buildings have stolen the peace of mind of the people living around.

A person living close to Vinayak Housing of Baluwatar was spotted at the DUDBC making similar complaints. “There are 17-18 houses around the building. With every small and big jolt, the situation of this high-riser is deteriorating,” the person said showing photographs that were taken after each quake and aftershocks.

People living in the surrounding areas of a number of other high-rise apartments, including Westar Apartment in Balkumari and Silver City in Kalikasthan, have started forming struggle committees or are getting united to make the government aware about the possible impacts.

According to Padam Kumar Mainali, spokesperson for the Ministry of Urban Development, a taskforce under the coordination of Shiva Hari Sharma, deputy director general at the DUDBC, has been formed to study and take a decision on Park View.

“Human life is more important than property. If this property is posing a risk to the lives, we will definitely have to take a stern action, which may also mean complete demolition of the buildings,” Mainali, said adding if the technical committee led by Sharma recommends demolition, they will go with the decision and do the needful by even importing foreign technology and manpower.

Mainali said the DUDBC has published a notice asking all the high-rise builders to assign a third-party consultant to access the buildings.

So far, officials of the DUDBC and the property developers have been assessing the building. The DUDBC is the same government authority that had given permission to the developers to build these high-risers.

Ganesh Karmacharya, engineer at the DUDBC, said out of out of 26 apartments accessed in the valley, two have received red stickers, 17 yellow and seven green.

Red refers to unsafe for immediate use, those marked yellow require repair before use, and green are buildings which are safe for use.

As per the DUDBC records, it has given permission for the construction of 70 high-rise buildings in Kathmandu. Of them, construction of 56 has been completed, 31 apartments have settlements, 14 are being used for different purposes, and 11 are under construction.

Published: 19-05-2015 07:23

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