The number of houses affected by the Great Earthquake in the Capital will rise by more than 50,000 in the next couple of years, a metropolitan official said, but the municipal office lacks both the resources and technology to maintain all of them.
Speaking to the Post on Friday, chief of the Department of Physical Development and Construction at Kathmandu Metropolitan City , Uttar Kumar Regmi, stressed the need for immediate demolition or repair of those structures built flouting the building codes, especially taller ones to contain possible damage. But KMC does not have the technology to bring down buildings taller than three to four-storey. Narrowly-built buildings in core areas of the metropolis are standing with the support of each other and have to be dismantled manually as cramped settlement does not allow machines to enter. “They have been sustained in a non-technical manner for the time being,” Regmi admitted.
According to Home Ministry data, a total of 36,973 private houses in the district have been fully damaged while 50,753 have suffered partial damage.
Under the leadership of District Administration Office, 12 teams comprising of KMC officials and experts from Nepal Army are currently engaged in assessing and managing collapse-prone buildings in different parts of Kathmandu district. As of Thursday, KMC has received more than 1,200 formal applications from residents to pull down vulnerable buildings and/or clear blocked roads. The highest number of complaints, more than 320, has come from KMC Ward no 14 comprising of Balkhu and Kalanki areas.
Unable to take action on all the piling requests, KMC officials, of late, have been requesting citizens to pull-down their damaged building on their own, but no incentive has yet been offered. Meanwhile, KMC is also taking Nepal Army’s help for other structures.
Experts have blamed over-commercialisation of buildings for the current plight. Adding floors in houses mean more space to rent out while using substandard materials and cheap contractors mean heavy cost-cutting. “The trend to build tall houses in a small area hoping to make the most of limited land leads to unsafe structures,” civil engineer Sujan Dhakal said. “Safety is compromised when beams and pillars meant for small houses cannot bear the load of a bigger building.”
Regmi agreed with the assessment. The KMC has already issued notice to halt new constructions in the city making it mandatory for them to acquire permits to carry on. Those who had already started construction have been asked not to make them taller than two-storey. “We are currently reviewing the existing building codes and bylaws to make necessary amendments for future structures,” Regmi said.
Apart from superstructures, the government has done no formal assessment of valley roads and sewerage lines along the ground which have also been damaged by the Great Earthquake and its recurring aftershocks. “The damage below the ground is certain to be widespread and massive when reports from official survey comes out,” Dhakal said.