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14 schools served notices

- Institutes told to meet safety norms by March 31

Guwahati, Nov. 26: The Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority today notified 14 schools in the city to meet safety norms and building bylaws by March 31 next year or face action.

GMDA town planner Debaraj Kalita told The Telegraph that the schools would have to shift or close down if they failed to meet the norms by the end of the current session or March 31, whichever is earlier.

“The notifications to the institutions were based on a survey, carried out earlier this year by the Assam Engineering College. The survey was done according to the recommendations of the Assam State Disaster Management Authority to check the multi-hazard mitigation readiness of schools here. It was also found that the institutions had violated the purpose of use cited at the time of acquiring the no objection certificate (NOC),” Kalita said.

The GMDA will shortly issue notices to three other schools that have building permission but have not adhered to safety norms and building bylaws.

“We had given permission to 17 buildings to be used for residential and commercial purposes. But, subsequently, these were used as schools in gross violation of safety norms and building bylaws, endangering the lives of students,” he said.

The GMDA has also identified 15 schools that don’t have no objection certificates from competent authorities.

“We will, in due course, notify 15 other schools, which don’t have NOCs, to meet the norms by March 31. The Guwahati Municipal Corporation, for its part, will also take action against 18 schools under its jurisdiction for not meeting safety norms,” he said.

The Assam Engineering College’s survey had identified 68 schools, some of which did not have fire extinguishers while others had cracks on the buildings, making them unsafe in the event of an earthquake.

“Two of them have already been closed down or shifted,” Kalita said.

The survey also found the staircases and entry/exit routes in some schools very narrow, which may pose problems during evacuation and rescue operations in the event of disasters. Some schools did not have adequate open spaces. Sources said the state government was taking the matter very seriously, as schools house the most vulnerable section of the population — children.

The disaster management authority had decided to conduct the survey as past experiences in other cities struck by disasters showed that inadequate school buildings had been the cause of many casualties and injuries during earthquakes. The state education department had also been asked to take corrective measures for government schools and to direct private schools to take measures to reduce the multi-hazard vulnerability of their buildings.