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Recent surveys indicate that there are nearly 150 ‘dangerous’ buildings in Karachi, 180 in Rawalpindi and more than 700 in Lahore. These buildings are being used as residences and offices; they are structurally weak and unsafe for people to occupy and cannot be restored to their previous, ’safe’ condition.

While some of these buildings were constructed more than 50 years ago others are newer – constructed 10 to 20 years ago – and are unsafe due to the use of low-grade construction materials and poor engineering. These buildings are at high risk especially during the monsoon season, when storms and torrential rain pose a threat to these structures.

There are certain Government bylaws that should be followed in order to minimise the danger of such buildings:

1. Each dangerous building must be examined by the Controller of Buildings (who heads a Technical Committee) as well as members of the Committee. This Committee consists of highly qualified structural engineers with a minimum of 15 years’ experience in the field.

2. If the Committee finds a building to be structurally unsound and dangerous, a 24-hour evacuation notice must be issued to the owner(s). A thorough inspection will be undertaken after the building has been evacuated.

3. If the building is salvageable, the owners will be ordered to restore and repair the building’s structural integrity.

4. If the building is deemed unsafe to an extent where even repair will not be able to restore its structural integrity, it will have to be demolished.

5. Until the building is demolished, it must be clearly marked with warning signs to caution people of its potential hazards.

However, despite the hazards they pose, many unsafe buildings are still occupied by people because of low rental rates.

— Faiza Mateen

First published in the Real Estate Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on July 3, 2011.