The Mantri mall debacle: select constructions that follow safety guidelines

On a usual January afternoon at 3 p.m., keeping its doors open to the eager pre-evening crowd, a certain shopping complex in the heart of Namma Bangalore, hoping for an uneventful day was going as per schedule. Fast forwarding our time machines to next day 4 a.m., the same shopping complex is making the front page of every important print media and was being covered live on national television. What was the reason? A wall which was an important part of the building’s skeleton had collapsed in broad daylight, leaving a house-keeping member injured and the entire complex evacuated in fear of further accidents.

The mall under question is the much discussed Mantri mall of Malleswaram, Bengaluru. Termed as one of the biggest malls in the country, it boasts a wide array of brands under its belt and an area coverage more than our usual shopping complex. This structure has been a part of the city’s lifeline for years, then why did one of its walls collapse on a busy afternoon?

Immediate official comment issued for the incident claimed an AC water seepage the cause of the mishap. Then the question on demand was, how does such a defect can go unnoticed?

With the mall being evacuated within minutes and all businesses halted indefinitely, this mistake cost all those brands lakhs of rupees, for the days the establishment had to be closed. A further investigation which went to the extent of forensic and structural analysis revealed a different version of the root cause. Structural defects which were in-depth and present since the inception of the building caused such havoc, after all these years, without giving any signs.

Some experts believe that buildings of such magnitude should go through structural analysis by certified architects in regular intervals. Such a system would allow repair if any to be executed on time and will prevent unforeseen and possibly fatal accidents.

Apart from the above-mentioned point, prevention starts much before, in the root, from the very moment civil engineers and architects sit in the conference to discuss a plan and a strategy.

The recent villa projects in Bangalore handled by award winning developers have been devised carefully and protocols were created from the very first stage of building a structure. This included innumerable security checks as far as sourcing of building materials are concerned, certification of contractors and construction workers, creating a timeline which is to be followed during a building procedure, formulating clever yet unique methods to make a structure stronger from within and many other steps. The solution to the debacle is in the micro bits of the issue. Trying to macro manage the big picture will be fools work and will result in repetitive instances.

Although the enforcing bodies have a protocol in order to make sure such procedures are followed, often they don’t look deep enough to check if they are actually implemented. Careless handling of protocols by white collar clerks not only jeopardize their job integrity but also puts countless lives in danger. Take for example the incident of Mantri mall that could have been easily avoided if everything was in place.

Examples, where following protocols have worked to their advantage, are many. All one needs to do is to do as ordered, in accordance with rules and regulations.

The checks might take just a couple of days to conduct, but failure to do so will cost human lives, which by no measure is a ground to debate and argue. Following construction, guidelines is not a necessity but an enforcement of guideline.