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Sri Lanka’s capital has10,000 unapproved buildings, ‘serious questions’ on apartments: Minister

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo has thousands of buildings that were not properly approved a and ‘serious questions’ regarding some apartments, Western Province Megapolis Minister Champika Ranawaka has said, after the collapse of a partly-built building.

Minister Ranawaka said authorities were looking at areas like Dehiwala-Mount Lavinia and Kolonnawa. About 10,000 unapproved buildings had been found so far. In a coastal belt between Bambalapitiya and Wellawatte in Colombo’s southern suburbs, there were 1,800 ‘illegal constructions’ without proper permission, he said.

The collapse of a 7-storey building in Wellawatte, which was apparently being extended, led to the death of at least one person and around two dozen were injured, reports said.

Wellawatte is an area where there is a high concentration of the Tamil minority and migrants from Jaffna, which had led to many apartment buildings coming up in recent years. There are ‘serious questions’ regarding some apartment blocks in the city, Minister Ranawaka said.

Minister Ranawaka said the collapsed 7-storey building was next to another 8-storey building. It had received planning permission in 2009 as an apartment block, but no certificate of conformity has been obtained after completion, before people occupied the building. It was being used as a reception hall.

Individuals who have experience in building their own houses say some local authority officials are corrupt and plans of seasoned house builders seem to be quickly passed but it can take up to five months for ordinary person to get planning permission to build their own house.

In some areas, both the UDA and local authority permission is needed.

People who went through the process say excuses for delaying house approvals include: the officer who peruses the documents is on leave, they have gone on a conference, they are on a training program, come next week, come in two weeks, call before you come, the file has not come back yet, come next week, come in three days, the UDA has not sent the documents so come next week, the documents have been sent, the committee did not meet this week, the committee will meet next week, the structural engineer’s seal on the plan is not clear, the committee did not take up your plan this week, the municipal seal has not been placed on the approved plan yet, and the officer who signs on the seal is on leave.

Minister Ranawaka says a preliminary inspection by engineers of the State Engineering Corporation has indicated that the collapsed building was structurally flawed.

He said there should have been a 21-foot reservation between the building and the Wellawatte canal, but it appeared to have been encroached.





Sri Lanka’s politicians have also slapped high import duties on steel to give excessive profits to oligarchs in the steel industry, making construction steel un-necessarily expensive for the homeless.

Sri Lanka’s hotel sector has also lost competitiveness partly due to high import duties on steel. Economists say high import duties can lead to lower quality imports as has happened in ceramic and sanitaryware where factory seconds are imported.

Meanwhile, those with experience in house building say it also leads to even house-owners skimping on steel.

Import duty protection and high domestic prices for steel may lead to laying thinner steel bars than required for concrete and laying them wider than the spacing recommended by architects and structural engineers. (Colombo/May21/2017)

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