Here’s the civic body’s new solution to the city’s space problem — going underground.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation wants you to go shopping, work and send your children to play in the basements of buildings. In a move that could become contentious, the BMC has proposed to allow such establishments to be set up in basements or develop them as play areas for schools, but after ensuring sufficient fire safety measures are in place.
The civic body’s proposed changes applies to both residential and commercial buildings and is in the development control regulations 2034, some guidelines for which were released on Sunday.
But many have already raised concerns, right from how this will affect the building’s structural stability and whether there will be enough ventilation and light. Experts said opening up the first basement level paves the way for occupants to make alterations.
The revised guidelines allow the commercial use of the basements, such as recording studios, sewerage treatment plants, electric substations - all of which will require major structural changes .
“The basement will have to be designed to ensure that it is well-ventilated and people can be evacuated easily in case of an emergency. While physically it is possible, it will require a substantially high amount of technology to make it work,” said Pankaj Joshi, of Urban Design Research Institute (UDRI).
“The challenge is light and ventilation, as you are restricted by walls from all sides. So, it will be far more complicated and problematic in case of a disaster. You have to create a proper safety system. Also, if are making play area in basement it is huge task as it required high level of services for proper ventilations and light.”
A senior official from the fire brigade said dealing with basement areas are a challenge. “It will have a limited number of exit and entry points. Allowing constructions in the basement will increase fire risk in buildings, as generator sets or electrical sub stations, artificial light and ventilation systems will be set up,” he said, not wishing to be named.
Citizen activist Nikhil Desai called the move a complete disaster. “By allowing such activities in the basement, the civic body is putting the life of people living in the building at risk. Currently, there is very little scope for development in the basement, but if you see, most buildings have already encroached or have illegally altered basements. Now, you are allowing them by rule and civic body does not capacity to check every building, so it could lead to massive structural changes.”