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100 ‘dangerous’ buildings pose threat to tenants

While IMD predicts monsoon to hit Maharashtra between June 6-8, the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority’s (MHADA) annual pre-monsoon survey, in a last-minute rush on June 3, declared seven buildings in the city as ‘extremely dangerous’. Aside from these seven scary 50-year-old names that fall under the repair board of MHADA, there are 93 dilapidated buildings which fall under the jurisdiction of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).

The MHADA report further discloses names of 200 more buildings in the suburbs of the island city that come under the ‘most dangerous’ status. The officials have confirmed that the work to shift its residents from those buildings is en route.

When Afternoon Voice spoke to State Housing Minister Prakash Mehta, he said, “The MHADA officials have managed to vacate 286 families from these seven buildings and in the meanwhile, they have sent notices to the remaining 117 families to vacate.” Mehta further stated that “We are calling for the residents to vacate the premises for their own safety as our survey has found that these seven buildings in the riskiest class.”

MHADA identifies buildings at risk of falling down during the rains every year as part of its monsoon preparedness drive. Meanwhile, the Mumbai Buil-ding Repairs and Recon-struction Board (MBRRB) offers transit camps as temporary alternative accommodation for the residents of the buildings that are undertaken for repairs or reconstruction.

MHADA Chief PRO Vaishali Sandhansingh stated that though MHADA completes its annual pre-monsoon survey within May; but the process this year has become a little late. She further said, “6 out of 7 names in this year’s ‘most dangerous buildings’ list belong to the last year’s report. These buildings are beyond repairs and we need to evacuate residents and redevelop the structures.”

“Though the law permits us of forceful eviction, but considering it inhuman, we follow it only when the situation goes beyond control. Cutting off electricity and water supply comes under the provisions of forceful eviction,” she added.

However, the occupants of these dilapidated structures show an unwillingness to move out as they fear the too prolix redevelopment that may compel them to spend years living in badly maintained transit camps. Moreover, they also fear that the builders would exploit them and they will land up losing their home post-redevelopment.

MHADA officials throughout years have admitted being failed many times in resettling residents for reconstruction or repair. They have also blamed technical difficulties or lack of cooperation from tenants for the delay in their redevelopment work.

When asked about tenants refusing to shift to the transit camps, the MHADA officials told that if tenants don’t leave buildings, the power and water supply will be cut off. Even if they don’t move out, they have planned to call the police and move them forcibly.

But, why such C1 (dangerous) category building reports are released when the heavy Maharashtra monsoon is knocking the doors? Isn’t this easy if the building evacuation notices and the process to convince the occupants start months prior to the rainfalls?

G.G. Khiyani, Dy Chief Engineer Zone l of MBRRB explained, “We try to evacuate residents from the unsafe buildings throughout the year. Due to multiple reasons, tenants don’t vacate a place. MHADA tries its best to give them the best accommodation in convenient nearer locations. But in cases of no vacancy in the nearest transit camps, we give them places in other areas. We are always on war foot if the transit camps require repair works.”

The collapse of a 117-year-old six-storey building in the congested Bhendi Bazar area in South Mumbai on August 31 last year that killed 33 people, including 23 men, nine women, and a 20-day-old male child, is not the only one that Mumbai and its suburbs have experienced. On June 21, 2013, 10 people were killed and 14 were injured when Smruti Building collapsed outside the Mumbra railway station. In another incident in the same year on September 27, another five-storeyed building crumbled in the Mazagaon area and it snatched away at least 61 lives and 32 others were injured in the disaster. On April 4 in the same year, 74 were killed and 62 injured when Adarsh B building at the Lucky Compound in Shil Phata collapsed and there are many more.

As per reports, the island city has seen deaths of an average of seven people per day in crashing down of structures in the city between 2001 and 2015. An unfortunate data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) indicates that a total of 38,363 people lost their lives due to the collapse of various structures (mostly residential houses) between 2001 and 2015.

The civic authority’s list of seven ‘most dangerous’ buildings includes 144 M.G. Road A 11630 – A Ward, 208-220 Kazi Sayyed Street – B1 Ward, 101-111 Bara Imam Road – C1 Ward, 30-32 – 2 Sutar Lane – C3 Ward, 69-81 Khetwadi 3rd Lane, Ganesh Bhuvan – D2 Ward, 39 Chowpatty Sea Face – D3 Ward and 46-50 – Clair Road, Lucky Mansion – E2 Ward.

Delay in constructing buildings under MHADA is another reason that the highly dense city like Mumbai lacks affordable housing thus making it difficult for the civic authority to re-accomodate the residents from the risky buildings to the developed ones without causing much fuss.

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