Friday 4 January 2013

Construction - Indian Style!

There is a building going up within about 50 yards of our own apartment block.  Every morning, I look out of the window of the back bedroom to monitor progress.  Progress which is incredibly slow and I wonder if it will ever be finished.

It is absolutely fascinating watching how untrained men with no nuance of health and safety try to put up this building.  Six months ago when I arrived, there were nine storeys of concrete framework.  Now they are working on the tenth.  You can't really blame them for being slow, as there only ever seems to be about six to eight men on the job.  Most of them are so skinny, they don't look like they could lift a single brick. Actually there are no bricks involved in this construction (just as well), only pilings on top of pilings into which concrete is poured.

I have no idea what these guys are trying to do - but the shoeless one balancing on the steel rods is not wearing a safety harness.  No one is wearing a helmet or a high-viz jacket. And look how the guy on the left is crouching on the edge! Does the guy on the right really think that his flat cap is going to protect his head?
Now look how far down it is if he falls! (the above group is at the top of the building)
The vertical structure is the winch for heaving materials up and down.  There is some sort of net to the bottom left of the picture for catching stray building materials/bodies...but I don't fancy their chances with that, do you?

Looking around at the other buildings in Bandra and thinking about our own apartment block, I wonder if the same construction method has been used. It makes me a bit nervous. All I can say is that I hope an earthquake - anything over 0.2 on the Richter scale - never hits Mumbai.

Going back to the construction workers. You won't see any steel toe-capped boots on them. You won't see any helmets. And you won't see any high-viz jackets. You won't see any scaffolding up the sides of building upon which safety barriers are attached (to stop people falling) and most of the time you won't even see steel scaffolding holding up the floors. Bamboo is the scaffolding material of choice! There is no site office, there is no Health & Safety Officer and from what I can tell, there are not even any visible project managers. These guys work at their own pace, spend half their time sitting around enjoying the view and a lot of their time hanging off the sides peering downwards - making my stomach lurch. As to whether these guys truly know what they're doing? I haven't a clue!

Just sitting around...admiring the flip flops
Spying from my balcony, I can not see any proper tools, concrete mixers (surely there must be?) or lifting equipment. There is a total lack of building equipment and everything seems to be done by hand! There is no elevator to lower materials up and down from the ground - just a winch on to which wooden planks, lumps of concrete ad basic materials are attached, and then pulled up and down by the men.

Some of the workers even live on the construction site together with their families. But this doesn't necessarily make them early for work. I will often see their little offspring squeezing themselves through the gap in the gate to beg sweets from the owner of the nearby corner shop. Can you imagine your five year old roaming freely on a building site?? Let's try and welcome India to the 21st Century eh?

I will keep you up to date with progress - who knows, by the time I leave Bombay, construction may have progressed to the 11th floor!


Hastily erected scaffolding holding the next floor up - it's not even straight! 
But at least this is steel scaffolding - mostly it's made out of bamboo.

These guys are preparing to winch down some materials

In the background...a quite nice building that has just been completed. 
Fingers crossed that the builders were a little more professional than these lot!

Rubbish and debris everywhere on site.  Call the Fire, Health and Safety Officer!

It's not good to joke really as sadly, Health and Safety on Indian construction sites is generally ludicrously ignored and even worse, the workers themselves are totally ignorant about their rights and rights to welfare in the event of an accident.  According to the Times of India, there were 40 labourer deaths in the latter six months of 2011.  But the government to date seems to be completely in the dark about actual numbers.  You can read an article about it here.


  1. Oh my goodness ... my stomach lurched when I saw how high up the guy on the edge actually is. This should never be allowed! Marina (Jane)

    1. Hi Marina...this is only the tip of the iceberg. There are so many horrendous and dangerous things you see everyday in Mumbai..perhaps I will do a series on it.

  2. Very interesing report! Thanks! Have you seen their scaffolding made of wood sticks and pieces of string!

    1. Yes...the bamboo scaffolding mentioned...tied together with twine. Insane!

  3. The slow pace of construction is the same in Kolkata. Four years ago, when I arrived, there was a building that was being constructed. It is still not finished. I think that it is because of the enormous amount of bricks that are used as walls, and because cranes are rarely, if ever, used.
    I am currently visiting Cebu. Here, buildings that did not exist six months ago (the last time that I was here) are almost completed.

    1. Hi Michy...4 years? That's crazy! I wonder how much money is getting wasted through such inefficiency?

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