Unauthorised Construction and Building Norms in Rural Himachal Pradesh: A Threat to Safety


Himachal Pradesh, a state known for its natural beauty and serene landscapes, is facing a pressing issue of unauthorised construction and non-compliance with building norms in rural areas. 

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has raised significant concerns about the unauthorized construction, land misuse, and disregard for building norms in rural areas of Himachal Pradesh. These practices pose a substantial threat to the safety of houses in the event of a natural disaster, as highlighted in a post-disaster needs assessment (PDNA) study conducted after the devastating rains of the last monsoon. These findings underscore the urgent need for addressing the enforcement challenges and ensuring the safety of structures in Himachal Pradesh.

Key Findings of the PDNA Study

  • Enforcement Challenges: Rapid urbanization and changing socio-economic dynamics have made it difficult to enforce building regulations. Unauthorized constructions have led to issues of building quality, land misuse, and safety concerns.
  • Lack of Traditional Building Practices: It revealed that a majority of the construction work is being carried out by migrant workers who are skilled in brick masonry but lack knowledge of traditional hill wooden and mud constructions known as ‘kath kuni’. This lack of expertise in local construction techniques compromises the resilience of structures, leading to potential safety hazards.
  • Construction in Rural Areas: A majority of houses in rural areas are built without safety checks or permits, as building bylaws are not mandatory outside of planned areas and Special Area Development Authority (SADA) jurisdictions.
  • Vulnerability of Mountainous Ecosystems: Unregulated development in fragile mountainous ecosystems has increased the vulnerability of the Himalayan region to disasters.
  • Impact of Urbanization and Tourism: The drive for urbanization and tourism has led to rapid construction activities that often ignore essential guidelines, leading to unstable slopes and compromised drainage systems.
  • Road Construction and Deforestation: Expanding road networks have caused the removal of vast green cover and the destabilization of terrain, increasing the risk of landslides.
  • Encroachment on River Banks and Valleys: The unchecked growth of settlements around river banks and valleys, primarily driven by tourism and population growth. It pointed out that encroachment on water channels, removal of green covers, and inadequate safeguards in road construction have intensified the threat of landslides and posed significant risks to the ecologically sensitive zones of Himachal Pradesh.


  1. Regular Audits: Regular audits of constructions are crucial to ensure adherence to regulations and identify potential safety risks.
  2. Revival of Traditional Building Practices: The use of traditional 'kath kuni' construction methods should be revived, as these structures have proven to be more resilient and reflect local culture and heritage.The report strongly recommended a revival of traditional construction methods to enhance the resilience of buildings and preserve the local architectural identity.
  3. Strengthening Building Bylaws: Building bylaws should be thoroughly examined and revised to address all multi-hazard issues, including landslides and earthquakes.
  4. Regulation of Construction in Rural Areas: Building permits and safety checks should be made mandatory for all constructions, including those in rural areas.
  5. Sustainable Development Practices: Development activities should prioritize sustainable practices that minimize the impact on fragile ecosystems and reduce disaster risks.

ALSO KNOW ABOUT:  Vernacular Kath Khuni Architecture


The NDMA's PDNA study serves as a wake-up call for Himachal Pradesh to address the urgent issue of unauthorized construction and land misuse. The state must take immediate steps to strengthen building regulations, enforce safety standards, and promote sustainable development practices to protect lives and property in the face of natural disasters.It is imperative for policymakers and authorities to take proactive measures to ensure sustainable and safe construction practices in the state.

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