Solutions to Faulty Construction in India

By Think Change India|17th Feb 2011
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This is a guest post from Drake MacDonald. Drake’s brief experience in construction introduced him to the field’s many shortcomings. As an online writer and editor, he works to promote construction management education in the hopes of improving industry standards of organization and communication.

Like many emerging countries, India has a problem with faulty construction. All you have to do is Google the phrase “faulty construction in India” and you will find numerous stories about disasters linked to substandard construction. However, while the problem is complex and pervasive, it is not insurmountable. There are solutions, and they aren’t only obtainable to those in construction management.

Sadly, the primary reason there are so many poorly constructed buildings in India is due to greed. However, what makes matters worse is that greed is not isolated to one particular segment such as builders or workers, but to the construction industry in India as well a whole. Builders looking for cheap and quick ways to build often skimp on materials, while the low wages received by contract workers encourages them to do little as possible and take no pride of their work. Even the government is guilty of greed, as officials often pocket bribes in exchange for awarding contracts or looking the other way. Clearly the problem in India is not that there is a lack of regulation, but merely lack of enforcement for existing regulations.

In response to this environment, the people of India have come up with some innovative solutions. One such solution is Right to Information, an online community that provides free information to residents of India. This Web site allows people to submit complaints on anything from poorly constructed buildings to reports of corrupt government officials, and be advised as to what course of action they should take. Thus far the site appears to be fairly successful, as there is even a section on success stories where the people have seen issues redressed.

However, with commercial building growing at a rate of 9 percent per year in India, the potential for corruption is at an all time high. Merely retrofitting buildings to conform to earthquake safety standards is such a large a task that the government cannot monitor every project to ensure it is properly completed. As such, individual companies and their workers must begin taking responsibility for their work and strive to create a high quality final product. Although speaking specifically about canal water loss, J. Harshan of the Central Water Commission stated the solution perfectly: “Remedy is high quality construction of canal building, use of good construction material, use of good quality pipes conforming to standards in India, good workmanship, and finally efficient planning of alignment of pipes, canals.” Clearly if all forms of construction were held to the same high standards the buildings in India would be much improved.

Luckily, a tool has emerged to help ensure that this call for high standards can be achieved. The integrity pact, designed and launched by Transparency International in the 1990s, has been implemented in several countries, including India. The pact is an agreement that has two objectives: to keep companies from offering bribes by assuring each business no other companies will engage in bribery, and to enable governments to reduce the high cost of corruption by ensuring honest practices. Not only does the integrity pact prevent builders and government officials from taking bribes by disciplining those that do, but the pact also brings wider benefits to India, such as reducing the cost of public contracting as well as increasing the level of it’s integrity.

While faulty construction continues to be an ongoing problem in India, the issue can be remedied. In fact, the people of India are already taking steps in the right direction by discouraging corruption. As online communities such as RTI India continue to draw attention to the many corrupt practices in the construction industry, while the government simultaneously uses the integrity pact to crack down on builders who don’t follow regulations, faulty construction will quickly become a thing of the past.