Crackdown on illegal building alterations

By Samuel Kutty — MUSCAT: Jan. 21 – Muscat Municipality is cracking down on property owners and contractors for unauthorised alterations that impact the structural integrity of buildings. “Although the initial decision is to impose a fine of RO 5,000 on violators, what is desired is more stringent actions like jail terms,” said Salim al Ghamari, Municipal Councillor from Muttrah. The councillor said changes without adhering to the civic laws can lead to health and safety issues, risking the lives of residents.

“No alterations, external or internal, will be allowed without permission from the authorities. There is no meaning in blaming the civic authorities in the event of fatalities caused by illegal constructions. People’s lives are more important than buildings,” he said. Alterations are said to have been made to umpteen number of residential, industrial and commercial buildings in Muscat without appropriate permissions. “These violations not only endanger the structural integrity of the buildings but also affect the aesthetic beauty of the city,” Al Ghamari said.

Unauthorised changes in buildings can lead to lack of fire exits and non-adherence to health and safety requirements in terms of ventilation and lighting. According to Muscat Municipality Building Regulation Act, no alteration is allowed in the approved permit, drawings or any other official document unless prior approval is obtained from the department concerned. “No alterations shall be endorsed unless signed and stamped by the department that issued the permit or the document,” says Article 103 of the Act.

Al Ghemari said these procedures are to ensure safety of changes and additions, and check if they are commensurate with the type and location of the building. Additionally, it is important to ensure implementation of these actions in a safe and secure manner to prevent construction site accidents. “We will not allow any kind of illegal construction in the city. We will work for maximum transparency so that residents’ lives are safe,” he said. Last week, the municipality said despite repeated warnings, some owners and contractors were engaged in major additions and changes to buildings and land plots without obtaining prior permission from the authorities.

According to municipal officials, in several cases, the violators litter the area with construction materials and debris, causing hazardous obstruction to residents. “Apart from a fine of RO 5,000, offenders will have to bear the cost of removal of any residual material abandoned at the site,” said an official. According to Article 105 of the Act, any person who demolishes, builds or lays the foundation for any building shall take all necessary measures to secure the safety of neighbours, their property, workers, passersby, roads and whatever is under or above the ground, including equipment and public service facilities. The official said exterior painting of the buildings should be in accordance with what is approved by the municipality.