Shortage of land may force the state to amend laws to make housing a bigger priority than safety.
A proposed law calls for a 6-mt (20 ft) space between a building and its compound wall in the front and one other side.
The rule will apply to over 16,000 cessed old buildings in the island city, where over 65,000 families will be provided apartments free of cost by developers who will be allowed to construct a certain number of houses to be sold on the open market.
However, the law may be watered down. Even as the government called for suggestions and objections, minister of state for housing Sachin Ahir said they may have to keep the mandatory space at the present 1.5 mt.
“The cessed buildings are in areas such as Girgaum, Kumbharwada, Kalbadevi and Nagpada, where the small plots are about 150 sq mt. It is difficult to provide for 6 mt on two sides. If we don’t reduce this requirement, the plan will hit a roadblock,” said Ahir.
Ahir hinted that the government might go in for an option that provides for flexibility — between 1.5 mt to over 6 mt — depending on the plot area.
Fire officials had asked for the 6-mt buffer in order to allow access for fire vehicles and personnel in case of a blaze.
Chief fire officer AN Shinde hoped that the state would not back down. “Ideally, there should be space on all four sides.
But, given the problems in the island city, developers should keep at least one access open. Often, ambulances can’t reach the spot and people with medical conditions have to be stretchered for long distances,” he said.
Developers said the 6-mt buffer would make projects unviable. “The new norm would hit the redevelopment process; going vertical is the only option in the revamp of most old buildings,” said Abis Rizvi, director, Rizvi Builders.
Open space crusaders, on the other hand, want a bigger buffer. “Two buildings could be clubbed together, saving on space. Often, the area in front also serves as a recreation spot for children and senior citizens,” said Vidya Vaidya, member of Citispace, a forum dealing with issues of urban spaces.