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Kandy Municipality needs to check mushrooming structures

30 September 2020 03:49 am - 1     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Remains of the controversial five storey builidng at Bhuwelikada

The owner of the controversial five storey builidng at Bhuwelikada  had obtained approval for the basement and one floor of the facility from the Kandy Municipality in 2007, according to the records now in possession of the Urban Development Authority.
The Urban Development Authority sent to the Presidential Secretariat a report by a special messenger on Tuesday afternoon on the day of the incidents regarding the consequences of the ‘Bhuwelikada’ tragedy, as called for by the Secretariat.
Bhuwelikada means ‘Boowella’ or loose soil.  


But people went on building houses with just one roof and they survived. However the social structure in the area changed with  money coming from abroad and with business establishments coming up in the form of buildings with several storeys. For some approval had been obtained while others were unauthorised. 
In the vicinity there were small rest rooms being built for the purpose of catering to tourists. Some of the were also unauthorised.
The end result was the tragedy where three innocent persons died due to the falling of the debris believed to have been from this five storey building, which collapsed.  
The Director of the Urban Development Authority in Kandy N.A.S.N.Nissanka said that one cannot figure out as to how the building collapsed. According to him it is left to the investigation team of engineers to delve further as to how this building could have collapsed.


The main question posed is whether this building received the approval of the the Kandy Municipal Council Planning Committee.  He said that the first application in this regard had been forwarded in 2006. In 2007, approval was given by the planning committee for a basement and one floor. Then in 2009 another application was forwarded for a basement and two floors. Then in 2016 another application was forwarded for a basement and two other floors.


Now what is the basement ?  To anyone’s interpretation the basement is the base of the building.  How then could the application be made for another basement following the first application? 
Nissanka said that NABRO, UDA,The Governor’s Office and the Kandy Municipality engineers with other engineers from Colombo would probe as to how this building could have collapsed. They’ll also investigate to find out whether initial steps were taken to fortify the ‘ basement ‘. At the moment it is not known for certain how the building had collapsed. Moreover there is no photograph of the building to even figure out the height of the building.


He also added that responsibility regarding the incident falls on the planning Committee. He also added that there would be a concerted effort to delve as to how these lapses had taken place. 
He said that there is a lack of staff when it comes to carrying out checks before a building of this nature is constructed.  
All in all damage has been done and three innocent lives were lost. This tragedy cannot be erased from the minds of the people in Kandy or elsewhere, that easily.
Critics opine that the blame must be shouldered by the Kandy Municipal Council, and the technical officers who scrutinise a building being constructed.   


But there are no construction records or any report regarding this building which is owned by Anura Lewke. 
Can the authorities totally blame Lewke the owner.?  For all purposes he had made an application and the Municipality has approved it (the application) and given permission to build the facility.  He is supposed to have stuck to the construction plan, but it is difficult to assume whether he remained within the limits of his application; which is the duty of the technical officers of the Municipality. 


What baffles the writer is how an application could have been made for two basements. It is common knowledge that the’ basement ‘is at the base of the building. But in this case in 2009 another application has been made for a basement and the irony is that the Planning Committee had approved it according to Nissanaka.  Approval had been granted to build another basement on top of a basement.  
However the responsibility has to be shouldered by the Chief Executive Officer of the Municipality and The Commissioner.   How far he would take this responsibility is to be known. But, as the Chief Executive Officer he cannot shirk this responsibility.


According to Governor of the Province Lalith B.Gamage stock must be taken of all unauthorised buildings. 
Let’s turn the pages of time and recall two major events. Sometime ago a building at Anniewatta crashed.  An inquiry was held by the Kandy Municipality.
Another incident took place at the D.S.Sennayake Memorial Library Auditorium. It was gutted due to the negligence of the Kandy Municipality. This auditorium was provided for a musical show of a young man sans proper approval.


The negligence cost the Municipality Taxpayer millions. An inquiry was held and the  observations was that those responsible should pay compensation to the Kandy Municipality.
The file came into the Council and it has gone missing without a trace. Where is the file and who should pay the compensation to the Kandy Municipality?  
When the Council was dissolved it was managed by a Management Committee headed by the Commissioner. He was not a Special Commissioner, but only ‘the’ Commissioner.  His duty was to manage the Council until a legal body of Councillors were appointed.   The Management Committee had no power according to legal opinion, to engage in any new buildings.


But, new buildings were erected even without a feasibility report or any consultation with the Police; with regard to the traffic in the area. The ‘new’ Council came into office with massive buildings under their purview.  How are they going to manage these buildings ?  
Then, the Heritage Committee is administered without an Act of Parliament or any other legal document. The committee however depends on the provisions made for the Urban Development Law and the Laws of the Archaeological Department. The Committee has been sitting for years and drafting the Laws, but there is no legal status for the Committee as there is no Act by Parliament for them to influence people and present harm being done to the island’s heritage.


This is then the status of the Kandy Municipality.
It is high time that the Government took notice of these shortcomings and appoint a Committee of Inquiry to oversee the work of the Kandy Municipality. 

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  • Odin Wednesday, 30 September 2020 07:30 AM

    ...and bank accounts of politicians approving them!


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