Unauthorized buildings across the country are nothing new.There are many being constructed without the permission or proper approval of the NBCC (National Buildings Construction Corporation Limited). While urbanization is the bane of the environment, that is rapidly progressing across agricultural lands; realtors and builders are often found circumventing proper authorization and rules, that require strict implementation of a building project.

In regions like hill stations, tourism is the main reason for the alarming expansion of hotels, lodges and guest houses, that are built without proper permits and licenses. Local authorities and builders are as much to blame for such illegal expansions; which are open to huge risks, on account of lack of proper technical and architectural rules to be implemented; that never see the light of day.

Whole buildings are known to collapse or sink into the ground, without the mandatory soil tests and other ground-level factors, that need to be taken into account. Investors come to grief with life-time earnings being ploughed into such projects. Most importantly, they result in loss of lives and the after-effects of such grossly negligent man-made disasters, are oft repeated in a country like India; without caring to read the consequences, or learn from them.

A recent incident tragically ended in the loss of seven lives in Solan, Himachal Pradesh. The disaster occurred in Solan, 45 kilometers away from one of the most popular tourist destinations in India – Shimla. A multi-storeyed building, that also housed a restaurant – the Sehaj Tandoori Dhaba, just collapsed. Among the dead, six were Army personnel. At least seventeen people – 12 civilians and five soldiers have been rescued from the rubble. Two teams of NDRF (National Disaster Response Force) have reached the site, to carry out search and rescue operations.

The building collapse occurred due to heavy rain in the area. The building apparently was not built to specifications. A case of negligence has been registered against the owner of the building under the IPC (Indian Penal Code). According to sources, Army personnel and their families were on their way to Uttarakhand, and stopped for lunch at the dhaba.

Heavy overnight rains had caused massive mud-slides, and had hit the Chandigarh-Shimla highway, causing huge traffic jams. The risk of driving is more aggravated after dusk ,with the entire Parwanoo-Solan route, declared a ‘permanent landslide zone’.

Mumbai, the financial capital of India, has it’s old and new areas of the city, with it’s wide expanse.  While Navi Mumbai and other posh localities house a lot of upper end to celebrity status personalities, there are many faces of Mumbai, where the reality is grim and harsh.  Beyond the five-star facade of glitzy hotels and posh residences, as well as high-rises and corporate houses, there are narrow lanes and side streets, with crumbling buildings. Most of these house the poor and are crowded, adding to the woeful situation. Many of these buildings are a century old, and in dilapidated condition.

Rains bring their own share of misery, and such areas are the first to get inundated; mostly low-lying areas. A four-storey building, next to the Kesarbai building in Tandel Street in the crowded Dongri neighborhood, was designated by the MHADA as ‘C1’ – meaning it was marked for evacuation and  demolition after a safety audit. Yet, the building was left untouched; and finally collapsed under the relentless rains.

The Dongri area is full of dilapidated buildings in narrow lanes, and the heavy rainfall caused a deluge of floods. At least 40 to 50 people were feared trapped in the debris. 14 were confirmed dead in the building collapse.There were nearly eight families living in the ill-fated building. Fire brigades and  ambulances reached the site. The bodies of a few children were found as the rescue operations started. Three teams of the NDRF (National Disaster Response Force) were also rushed to the scene.They were supported in the rescue efforts by the residents of the south Mumbai neighbourhood, where old buildings are crammed together.

United Nations Chief Antonio Guterres expressed his grief at the loss of life, displacement, and destruction of property brought on by the heavy monsoon rains in India. He said that the world body stood to offer any support it could.

The monsoons have also affected Myanmar, where 21,000 people have been displaced. Heavy rains in south-east Nepal have killed 67 people and displaced more than 16,500 households. Mr. Guterres said that the United Nations is ready to work with the governments of the affected countries.

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