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Corruption responsible for building collapse incidents

At least 10 people died, 8 got injured, and around 40 residents reportedly got trapped under the debris in south Mumbai’s Dongri area after a 100-year-old four-storey building collapsed on Tuesday. The Kesarbai building that collapsed at around 11:40 am was located in Tandel Street at Dongri. Along with the police and fire brigade officials, a team of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) also reached the site and continued the rescue operation. The authorities called this tragedy a “level 2” incident; level 1 is the most serious under the system that measures the severity of a building collapse. CM Devendra Fadnavis on Tuesday afternoon told the reporters, “The building was 100 years old. We have given permission to redevelop that area. We will know after investigation if the redevelopment initiative was delayed. Right now we are focusing on rescuing trapped people.”

Building safety is considered one of the crucial issues of the financial capital Mumbai which is one of the crowded cities of India. Moreover, in May, the civic agency BMC in the country’s financial and entertainment hub had identified 499 buildings as “dangerous”; it was 619 in the previous year.

Between 2001 and 2015, an average of seven people died per day due to the collapse of structures in the city. 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 between 2001 and 2015. Most people lost their lives because of the collapse of residential houses. There are hundreds of people who are forced to live in these dangerous buildings in spite of every day building fall incidences.

The building walls have deep cracks and the paint is peeling, many portions of the building just sliced and some are standing on temporary supports. However, still, people are forced to live in danger as they cannot buy or rent a new flat in the neighbourhoods because they are very expensive.

Property prices and rent in Mumbai are among the highest in Asia. Many citizens are forced to live in old, dilapidated properties in a land-scarce city where an estimated 60 per cent of its 18 million people live in slums and purlieus. In the western suburbs, Andheri (West) or the K/West ward has 50 buildings in the C-1 category.

As a part of its pre-monsoon preparedness in 2017, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had identified 791 buildings in the C-1 category — the most dangerous. Of these, it has demolished 186 (23 per cent) buildings and evacuated 117 (14 per cent) buildings as of March-end. While C-2 buildings require major structural repairs, C-3 need minor repairs. The largest numbers of dilapidated buildings are in L ward or Kurla (113) followed by N ward or Ghatkopar, where 80 buildings are in the C-1 category. The F/North ward (which includes Matunga, Dadar, and Sion) also reportedly has 77 structures in the C-1 category.

There are more than 14,000 buildings in Mumbai that are more than 70-years-old. Due to an archaic law which limits raising rents, many tenants pay minimal rate per month, leaving the landlords with little money to invest in repairs and maintenance. No wonder then that 959 buildings have been branded as “dilapidated and dangerous” by the city’s municipality and every year, a number of these buildings collapse, leading to many deaths.

In a densely populated city where quality, affordable housing is scarce, the realtors often cut corners to make what many call sub-standard buildings, putting the buyers at risk. Though there are nearly half a million pricey apartments which lie vacant as sellers look for rich buyers, millions of middle-class residents get squeezed out to the suburbs and outskirts to live in these hazardous new buildings. The corruption in the housing sector – complex regulation leading to complicity between a section of builders and government workers – worsens matters and leads to poor quality buildings coming up in the city.

Corrupt builders build homes without taking mandatory permissions using poor construction material. In many cases, residents get a structural audit done and approach the court to get a stay delaying the demolition process further. According to the data, 145 cases are pending with the court and 21 cases are pending with an internal committee.

A structural audit is mandatory for any building, which are more than 30 years old. With limited availability of open land parcels in Mumbai, major developers are now looking at venturing into the redevelopment space. Dilapidated buildings on the verge of collapse are a grim reality for thousands of housing societies across Mumbai. Developers, as an incentive to owners of older buildings, offer additional area, money, and the promise of a new flat with a better amenity. However, the owners should keep a few things in mind before opting for redevelopment.

Housing redevelopment refers to the process of reconstruction of a residential premise by the demolition of the existing structure and construction of a new one as per approvals from the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM). It ideally works best when a society is in the dire need of extensive repairs but is starved of the necessary funds for it.

Developers, on their part, are also on the lookout for properties with unused development rights where they can build a new and higher structure where the additional floors can be sold for a tidy profit. However, redevelopment can only take place if 75 per cent of the members tender their consent. Over 20,000 housing societies, 17,000 ceased buildings and over 3,000 MHADA (Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority) structures are waiting for redevelopment proposals.

However, while redevelopment may be the latest buzz, citizens argue that developers often tear down old colonial mansions to build luxury towers for the rich. And more often than not, it is often haphazard and done without the consent of society members. The redevelopment process also causes inconvenience to the residents, as they will have to look for alternative places to stay in while the builder demolishes the old building and constructs a new one.

Redevelopment is usually burdened with bitterness and complaints of high-handedness and corruption against the Managing Committee of the society, which is why people chose to live in whatever space they have.


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Dr Vaidehi Tamanhttp://www.vaidehisachin.com
Dr Vaidehi an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with Honourary Doctorate in Journalism, Investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and Author. She is Editor-in-Chief of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. for 11 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazines like Hackers5, Beyond The News (international) and Maritime Bridges. She is also an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester which caters to her freelance jobs.

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