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Tall boundary walls are accidents waiting to happen

- Post Report, KATHMANDU
Tall boundary walls are accidents waiting to happen

May 25, 2015-

Tall walls surrounding many residential houses, buildings and major landmarks in Kathmandu that were badly damaged by the Great Earthquake on April 25 have been deemed a serious threat to both life and property.

Along with quake-damaged buildings and high-rises that endanger people’s live,  tall boundary walls - also called compound or perimeter walls - can be potentially hazardous to people walking on the streets, especially when they can collapse anytime.

These walls are considered illegal because, as per the building code set by the government, boundary walls cannot be more taller than four feet.

When the April 25 earthquake struck the nation, many people were killed by boundary walls that sagged and collapsed after not being able to withstand the violent rattling.

These walls are particularly dangerous since many of them have been built without “setback”, space that a house must allow for a road, leaving the pedestrians at huge risk.

At least 14 people were reportedly killed after boundary walls in Nagpokhari, Jamal and Bhotahity collapsed during the great earthquake last month.  Back in 2011, three people had died when the boundary wall of the British Embassy had collapsed due to the 6.8 earthquake.

In February this year,  the government had started the “Remove High-Walled Compounds” campaign aimed at minimising the risks related to earthquake s and other natural disasters. In view of the danger to life and property from the collapse of high-walled compounds surrounding commercial complexes, education institutions, private and public buildings in the event of natural disasters, the government had directed all towns and cities in the country not to allow the construction of boundary walls that is over four feet high from the road.

However, even a month after the Great Earthquake, cracked walls can be seen all over Kathmandu that can potentially maim or even kill pedestrians. The walls surrounding Narayanhiti Palace Museum in Kathmandu is one such example.  Many parts of the long wall have been severely damaged by the quake and people are afraid of walking around that area. The case is just an example, there are plenty of such badly damaged walls in the capital  that can collapse any time.

People walking on the footpath near such high walls complain that they do not feel safe. Anil Shrestha, who owns a shop in Naxal, walks close to these walls while coming from his home at Nayabazar and says that the walls are a real threat to the pedestrians.

“These cracked walls need to be demolished immediately. They are accidents waiting to happen and the recurring aftershocks have made them even more dangerous,” said Shrestha, 40.

The government has already warned that illegal walls will be demolished. “We are aware many house owners have built boundary walls without getting their design approved. The height of these walls should not exceed five feet and we will check whether or not these building codes have been followed. Walls that have been built without following the code will be demolished immediately,” said Bhai Kaji Tiwari, commissioner at the Kathmandu Valley Development Authority.

Khem Khanal, a local from Lokanthali, said he had asked his neighbour to bring down his tall boundary wall which was on the way to the nearest open space from his home.  

“Whenever we ran to the nearby open space we had to cross his cracked boundary wall, which looked very threaten,” said Khanal.

“So people from our neighbourhood requested him to demolish his menacing wall and after some persuasion, he agreed.”

Published: 25-05-2015 06:56

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