The civic body will have to do more than conduct demolition drives to rid the city of illegal structures; it needs to also prevent such constructions from coming up again.
The records with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) show that it has been demolishing the same number of illegal structures for the past couple of years, and activists say this means most of the demolished structures are being built again.
For instance in 2009-10, the BMC records show that it demolished 19,474 structures, including slums, shanties, residential and commercial structures. The next year, in 2010-11, it again razed approximately the same number of structures —19,376; just 98 less than the previous year.
In 2009-10, the civic body razed 9,147 illegal slums, while in 2010-11, the number increased by around 600.
“Often, the same structures get demolished again and again, especially in the case of slums and shanties,” said a senior civic official, on condition of anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media. “Illegal residential and commercial constructions mostly refer to extensions.”
GR Vora, a member of a citizens’ federation from Matunga, alleges that most slums get razed to show in the record book and come up again.
“The BMC takes action against unauthorised structures, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are also plenty of structures that violate the development control rules, which are ignored. These records are just an eyewash to show to the public or to submit to the court,” Vora said. “Many towers come up illegally but no official gets penalised for it and later the structures get regularised through a fine.”
In February, the civic commissioner had issued a circular asking the administration to crack down on illegal structures, but there hasn’t been much action. Earlier this week, on Monday, corporators raised the issue of civic inaction and disagreed with the BMC that it was doing anything to get rid of unauthorised structures.
Harish Pandey, member of a citizens’ forum in Dahisar, believes there should be a stringent law to restrict encroachers from returning. “If the BMC demolishes the structure, they get a stay from the court,” said Pandey.
Chandrashekhar Rokde, deputy municipal commissioner, who has been appointed recently for encroachment removal, said: “We will soon initiate action against illegal structures.”