Wall collapse raises building standard safety concerns

Infrastructure: A little girl had a narrow escape when a wall including the stairs of a one-storey building in Changangkha collapsed following heavy rain on the afternoon of July 10.

The girl was pulled by her father just before the wall started sliding off. While no causalities were reported, the mudslide damaged the walls of a three-storey building located a few metres below.

Sewage pipes, window frames and glass, a water tank including the pipeline, a washing machine and a retention wall constructed by the owner of the affected building were damaged during the course of the mishap.

“It was a mere escape for my family from this incident as it happened while we were having lunch, otherwise children in and around my house always play around that area and I thank god that casualties were averted,” said Jangchub Dema, the owner of the affected building.

She said that several complaints and requests for intervention, both online and over the phone were made to the Thimphu thromde over the continuous leakage of water from her neighbour’s house built a few meters above her building.

In one of the letters to the thromde, Jangchub Dema pointed out that the overall building structure of her house could be weakened due to continuous seepage of water from above due to lack of a proper water drainage system.

Thromde officials had made three rounds of visits to the site including one by the thrompon himself. It was acknowledged that the house and the structure posed a risk of collapse, however, nothing was done, Jangchub Dema said. “This incident could be been averted had the intervention happened immediately.”

Jangchub Dema said that whenever she requested the owner to address the issue, he ignored her requests.

She said that the foundation of the house above is not stable enough. She questioned how the thromde had approved the construction of the house.

Thromde’s chief development control officer, Palden Khandu said the complaint was mainly on drainage problems in the area. He said topography of the area and no outlet for water caused the drainage problems.

Palden Khandu acknowledged that there could have been a setback on their part but he pointed out that the thromde’s prerogative is to deliver public services in consideration of all safety standards.

After the officials reviewed the site, it was found that the brick wall atop the retention wall was not built properly. “We have asked him to rebuild the wall,” he said. “As far as the thromde is concerned, we give our technical review based on the site conditions and what has happened.”

Palden Khandu pointed out the need for a proper and professional institution guiding the construction sector in the country.

Involving unprofessional Indian contractors and fresh graduates in drawing designs and construction also contributed to such mishaps, said Palden Khandu.

“We need to accredit our design engineers. Accreditation is very important for engineers. It should be only the professional builders who should be carrying out the constructions for if anything goes wrong, straightaway they will be held responsible for it,” said Palden Khandu.

He said that once such system is in place, such mishaps can be avoided.

Younten Tshedup 

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