What Triggered Recent Building Collapses in Shimla? Are Construction Workers the Main Culprits?

Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister-

As per a report, 72 people have lost their lives due to the torrential rainfall in Shimla (Himachal Pradesh) recently and the state has suffered substantial damage. The damage in the two overwhelming spells of heavy rain – this week and in July – is about Rs 10,000 crore.  Several people are still reported to be trapped under the debris of the collapsed structures.


 
Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu--the Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister--has reportedly blamed construction workers from Bihar for the destruction caused by incessant rains in Shimla, one of the worst-affected districts in the state.

 

Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister-

Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu

 

"The migrant architects (masons), whom I call 'Bihari architects', come here and construct floor on the floor. We don’t have local masons," he was reportedly quoted as saying. 


Sukhu later laid the blame for the enormous damage on the intensity of the rains and on the lack of "structural designing" in Himachal. 

 

Was it appropriate for him to blame the construction workers from a particular state for this sorry state of affairs? Is structural designing the main culprit as the Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu later said? How can buildings be made safer and stronger, especially in the hilly areas, so that they don’t crumble down when heavy rains arrive?

 

Read: Why Bridges in India Are Collapsing Like Ninepins?

 

Team Building Material Reporter (BMR) recently spoke with two structural engineers--Gaurav Sharma, Senior Structural Engineer, SM World Engineers Pvt. Ltd., Faridabad; and Raj Kishore Raj, Structural Engineer, Raj Structural Engineer & Consultant, Ghaziabad--and sought their views on these issues.

 

•    Gaurav Sharma, Senior Structural Engineer, SM World Engineers Pvt. Ltd., Faridabad

 

Workers from Bihar Are Responsible…


No, it’s’ not right to blame the construction workers from Bihar, or for that matter any other state, for what happened in Himachal Pradesh recently. The truth is that it’s the same story everywhere. Not many people have heard of structural engineering. Norms are not followed and professionals are not engaged for building purposes. No wonder, we find many such cases across the country. There was a recent such happening in Gurgaon. There again the reason was not hiring the right professionals for the job.  


   
Structural Engineers Are Responsible…


Blaming construction workers or contractors isn’t the right thing as there are more important and justified factors such as ignoring or not preparing soil reports for the foundation building of structures.

 

Making Buildings Safer and Stronger in the Hilly Areas… 


Care should be taken to properly study the seismic zone of the areas and build structures only after that. There should also be proper and right focus on understanding the foundation system and care should be taken to ensure that the building load is shared properly to avoid such unwelcome incidents in the future.   

 

•    Raj Kishore Raj, Structural Engineer, Raj Structural Engineer & Consultant, Ghaziabad

 

Workers from Bihar Are Responsible…


Blaming construction workers or contractors isn’t the right thing as there are more important and justified factors, such as ignoring or not preparing soil reports for foundation-building structures. 

 

Structural Engineers Are Responsible…


To put the blame squarely on structural engineers for what happened in Shimla recently is also not right as several factors could be at play.   

 

Read: Sustainable Construction and Green Building: How Important They Are?

 

Making Buildings Safer and Stronger in the Hilly Areas… 


All codes related to products and building processes should be followed. Care should be taken to focus on wind load pressure and soil testing aspects as in the hilly areas these factors matter more. Wind load pressure especially shouldn’t be ignored as in the hilly areas the pressure of wind is often more.

 

Final Thoughts

 

It’s wrong to blame workers for what happened in Shimla recently. Faulty structural design could though be one of the reasons. Care should be taken to build houses with proper planning and following all the codes of structural engineering to prevent such happenings in the future. Such matters should also not be politicized for short-term political gains.
 

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