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Boom and gloom

mumbai Updated: Oct 19, 2010 00:49 IST
Naresh Kamath
Naresh Kamath
Hindustan Times
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Balkrishna Lingam (28), a chawl resident in Parel, shudders at the pace of construction around his house. And the problems that it causes.

“Earlier, we used to get water for two hours a day, but now we are thankful if we get it even for an hour, thanks to all the skyscrapers coming up in the area,” said Lingam. “If we are facing so many problems while these skyscrapers are being built, imagine what will happen once they are occupied.”

Lingam’s complaints are echoed across Mumbai’s realty hot spots, where construction is on at a frenetic pace but infrastructure has struggled to keep pace.

In most of these areas, residents have handed over the redevelopment of crumbling chawls and housing societies to builders, who not only revamp the structures but also build new houses to sell commercially. However, infrastructure — such as water supply, drainage and parking facilities — is rarely upgraded. The population of these areas rises, but the civic amenities stay the same.

Minister of State for Housing Sachin Ahir accepted that infrastructure was a problem. “We are planning a blueprint that will take a holistic view of the issue,” said Ahir, who represents Worli, one of the real estate hot spots.

“There is no planning. The focus is on construction, not on civic facilities,” said VK Pathak, an urban planner. “The growth is haphazard, especially in the island city. There are no signs of raising water supply or sewage-handling capacity.”

The Shiv Sena, which protested against the construction of World One, the world’s tallest skyscraper at Lower Parel, called for a rethink of the development process. “It is tragic that original residents are denied basic facilities, while new ones are pampered,” said Dagdu Sakpal, former Sena legislator who headed the protest.

Pankaj Joshi, executive director, Urban Design Research Institute, said things would get worse. “This is just the start,” he said. He blamed the poor implementation of the city’s Development Plan, a blueprint of the city’s civic amenities and commercial zones.

Babulal Verma, chairman and managing director of Omkar Realtors, said the state should encourage builders to contribute to infrastructure around their projects. “We plan to petition the state to allow us to build a flyover near our Malad project,” said Verma, who is revamping the 20-acre Kurar Village slum. He said more than 6,000 vehicles would be added to the roads in the area once the project is complete. Without the flyover, traffic jams would become common, Verma said.

Over the years, there has been tremendous wear and tear of infrastructure. Now, with the quick pace of development, it is on the verge of collapse. In areas such as Bandra and Andheri, builders have been accused of adding unauthorised floors and illegally altering structures so that they get more space to sell.

“Parking spots are illegally converted into commercial spaces and even the space marked for roads is encroached upon by builders,” said Aftab Siddique, chairperson of 33 Road Khar Area Locality Management.

Ahir said he is now insisting that “instead of passing projects arbitrarily, the civic body study the area and give permissions only after it is satisfied that all facilities are in place”.

Builders, shrugged off any blame. “It is not our job to create civic infrastructure. We pay development fees, premiums and taxes. This money should be used to fund infrastructure,” said Sunil Mantri, president of the Maharashtra Chambers of Housing Industry, the apex body of builders.

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