TM Oblivious to Excavation Hazards

TM Oblivious to Excavation HazardsTM Oblivious to Excavation Hazards

Around 150 excavated and abandoned pits have been identified in Tehran city which pose a grave risk to pedestrians, vehicles and neighboring buildings alike. Most of the large numbers of excavated sites are in the upscale northern parts of the capital where there is a surge in construction activity in recent years. Some of the pits are said to be more than 20 meters deep.  

Due to the time taken to grant permits for construction of commercial and residential buildings, the Tehran Municipality (TM) has taken a short-cut by issuing excavation permits to builders prior to obtaining construction permits. The move was to facilitate and accelerate the projects once the construction permits are issued.

But critics say the TM wants to earn easy money without considering the negative consequences of such measures that in the past led to human casualties.

The Iranian Construction Engineering Organization comes into the picture only after the construction process starts. It is responsible for supervising the projects once the building permits are granted and thus the organization has no control over the excavations. In short, there is no monitoring of the excavated sites, which if left abandoned for long period of time can prove unsafe for adjacent buildings too, Tabnak News Agency reported.

In many cases construction license is denied after the permit for the digs are issued and thus a lot of pits are abandoned without being filled by the property owners or project contractors. Even in cases where construction permit is issued, the time lapse between the two phases of excavation and commencing construction can often be prolonged. In the rainy season, this can be dangerous.

Last year, more than 4,000 excavations were licensed in the capital of which 1,570 were abandoned. Among them 150 pits are considered highly dangerous and unsafe.

According to figures released by the Ministry of Roads and Urban Development, there are more than 150,000 buildings with over 12 stories in the capital although the city lacks infrastructure facilities for such constructions.   

One of the most risky pits in the capital is located in Elahiyeh St., Nasibi Alley. The pit has been abandoned since 1999, media reports say.

A woman living in the neighborhood said the situation gets worse in winters when the pit turns into a murky pool of rainwater raising the question of safety.

 Legal Problems

Mohammad Mahdi Tondguyan, head of the Urban Development Committee at the Tehran City Council (TCC), said such dangerous pits were identified by the TCC in the previous fiscal year that ended in March, but “we faced legal problems when we decided to fix the problems.”

Even if the TM takes a decision to fill the pits, it wouldn’t be possible, as entering people’s private property amounts to trespassing. Another problem is the usual lack of financial resources.

“We had given a three-month deadline to the TM to address the problems and consult the judiciary for the legal aspects. Several months have passed, but no measures have been taken by the TM.”

While some builders claim they have used ‘soil nailing’ techniques to ensure that the excavations don’t harm adjacent buildings, however, the short-term technique is only effective for 18 months.

Soil nailing is a technique in which excavations or retaining walls are reinforced by inserting slender steel bars. A rigid or flexible facing (often sprayed concrete) may be used at the surface.

Eqbal Shakeri, another TCC member said in the last few years, several smaller buildings have been demolished to make way for high-rises.