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HomeEditorialPeople have no choice then continue to live dangerously fragile buildings

People have no choice then continue to live dangerously fragile buildings

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dilapidated, mumbai buildings, old buildings, bmc, mumbai building collapse, monsoon
Watson’s Esplanade Hotel (now Esplanade Mansion) in Mumbai in dilapidated state. | Image: Twitter @SabyasachiBasu_

There are thousands of buildings in Mumbai that are more than 70 years old. Due to an archaic law which limits raising rents, many tenants pay as low as $1-$20 (65 pence-£13) a month, leaving the landlords with little money to invest in repairs and maintenance. No wonder then those 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, realtors often cut corners to make what many call substandard 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 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 is 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. But 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 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 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. But redevelopment can only take place if 75 percent of the members tender their consent. Over 20,000 housing societies, 17,000 abandoned 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 choose to live in whatever space they have.

Almost in every monsoon, some people give up their lives under the wreckage of old buildings. Between 2001 & 2015, an average of 7 people died per day in Collapse of Structures in the city. Data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) indicates that a total of 38363 people lost their lives due to the collapse of various structures between 2001 and 2015. From 2015 to 2021 the ratio has not changed much. The saga of such tragic deaths continued till 2022, this year Mumbai has many challenges, from sudden rise in COVID19 cases to recent building collapse just after one strong rain.. Most people lost their lives because of the collapse of residential houses. There are hundreds of people forced to live in these dangerous buildings in spite of everyday building fall incidents.

The building walls have deep cracks and the paint is peeling, much of the building just sliced and some are standing on temporary supports. But still the people are forced to live here in danger, because they cannot buy or rent a new flat in the neighborhoods 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% 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 part of its pre-monsoon preparedness, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had identified 791 buildings in the C-1 category — the most dangerous. Of these, it has demolished 186 (23%) buildings and evacuated 117 (14%) buildings as of March-end. buildings as C-2 and C-3. While C-2 buildings require major structural repairs, C-3 needs 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. However, the BMC demolished only two buildings in L ward and evacuated around 19 others. It is yet to initiate action on 92 buildings. The F/North ward (which includes Matunga, Dadar and Sion) also has 77 structures in the C-1 category.

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Vaidehi Taman
Vaidehi Taman
Vaidehi Taman an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with three Honourary Doctorate in Journalism. Vaidehi has been an active journalist for the past 21 years, and is also the founding editor of an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, and The Democracy digital video news portal is her brain child. Vaidehi has three books in her name, "Sikhism vs Sickism", "Life Beyond Complications" and "Vedanti". She is an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, OSCP offensive securities, Certified Security Analyst and Licensed Penetration Tester that caters to her freelance jobs.
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