Intruding Tower Cranes

Intruding Tower CranesIntruding Tower Cranes

Tower cranes rising high above the ground are a common fixture at major construction sites, which are in plenty in Tehran as the metropolis expands at an ever increasing pace thanks to the costly and controversial policies of the municipality and government urban planners.

 The cranes hover like the Sword of Damocles over the heads of people, motorists, passersby, residential homes and construction workers and are an ever-present peril.

The large machines are pretty hard to miss often rising hundreds of feet in the air, and can reach out just as far and beyond, even trespassing the streets from high above. They are used to lift steel, concrete, large tools like acetylene torches and generators, and a wide variety of other building materials.

The number of tower crane collapses in recent months has increased to the extent that Ahmad Donyamali, head of the Development and Transportation Committee of the Tehran City Council, said a two-month ultimatum had been given to construction companies to remove the cranes from several neighborhoods in the sprawling capital.

“After the deadline, unannounced inspections will be conducted and any violation will be dealt with as per the law,” the Persian language newspaper ‘Sharq’ quoted him as saying.

“The movement of the cranes over people’s heads and houses and the streets is an invasion of their privacy and rights.” In fact it is illegal.

According to the councilor, the huge cranes have no business “to circulate over people or their property. It is completely illegal and people have the right to complain if they find that it endangers their lives or undermines their privacy.”

The cranes’ boom (the steel arm of the crane that holds the load) should be adjusted in a way that they are not positioned over other people’s property. Several cranes should be used in different positions instead of one big crane circulating in different directions, to ensure that people’s safety and privacy are respected.

Many inactive cranes positioned at perilous angles are seen across the city posing a threat to people’s safety. Additionally, most of the cranes currently in use at large building sites are very old, and 25% of them date back to the 1960s.

Donyamali pointed to a meeting held recently on the subject of ‘cranes, crane-related accidents and safety regulations, where different aspects of the problem were discussed.

He said the Ministry of Industries Mines and Trade should phase out the old cranes and disallow their use “after surface modification, coloring, or sandblasting.”

Also routine ‘metal fatigue’ tests should be conducted to identify the unsafe and dangerous cranes.

  Human Error

On the other hand, operator error can also cause a disaster.

Therefore, operators should be skilled in working with heavy equipment and moving heavy loads. They should be prepared for all unforeseen circumstances thrown their way – as part of the job.

Joint efforts of the Iran Society of Engineers, Tehran Municipality, Iranian National Standards Organization and the Ministry of Industries are essential to address the problem.

As usual the number of inspectors is limited, officials say, and it is up to the people to  ensure that their rights and safety are protected by making a complaint if they believe there is a violation.

While the people can protect their homes against the threat of tower cranes, they can’t do much about it on the streets. The councilor suggested that a working group comprising relevant organizations be formed to address the issue in a professional and effective manner.

Mahmoud Kashani, a legal expert, pointed to Article 38 of the country’s civil law, by which land ownership implies ownership of space above and below the land. Although there is a ceiling on the number of floors that can be constructed as per the municipal rules for each residential area, outsiders have no right to trespass into this space even hundreds of feet up in the air.

The number of tower cranes in Tehran city is staggering, Donyamali said, and blamed the uncontrolled issuance of construction permits by the Tehran Municipality for the high number of metal giants littering the city skyline.

For over two decades, thanks to the municipality’s huge appetite for alternative means of revenue, Tehran has been turned into a monstrous construction zone, with heavy machine tools that can put people’s health at risk in many different ways.  The so-called “reconstruction fad” is amply visible even in small lanes and alleys in the capital and other metropolis as private homeowners decide to bring down seemingly ageing structures and replace them with new and extra apartments.  

What more good news for mayors/municipalities always grumbling about deficit spending, their army of cronies and the firms leasing the old but expensive cranes?