Mumbai building collapse toll up to 13; Maharashtra begins damage control
While the toll in Tuesday’s Kesarbai building mishap rose to 13, the state moved to remove certain obstacles and facilitate faster redevelopment of dilapidated buildings in Mumbai .Updated: Jul 19, 2019, 07:45 IST
The Maharashtra government swung into damage-control mode on Wednesday, a day after the four-storey illegal extension of a building collapsed in Dongri. While the toll in Tuesday’s Kesarbai building mishap rose to 13, the state moved to remove certain obstacles and facilitate faster redevelopment of dilapidated buildings in Mumbai.
The collapse of the ground-plus-three floor structure, followed by the blame game between authorities on Tuesday, was another grim reminder of the plight of residents living in dangerous structures in several parts of Mumbai.
The rescue operations, which were called off by the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and Mumbai Fire Brigade after 30 hours on Wednesday, had proved to be a tough task owing to the narrow lanes around the collapse site.
The state has now decided to survey all buildings in B ward, which comprises Dongri, Pydhonie and some other areas, so as to evacuate residents from dangerous buildings. Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis convened an urgent meeting with officials and took decisions to resolve the issue. To enable the redevelopment of old and dilapidated cessed buildings, the state has decided to empower agencies to acquire these buildings compulsorily by amending the existing law of 1969, and redevelop structures under the model of cluster redevelopment. The state is likely to issue an ordinance in this respect, after a nod by the state cabinet in the next few days, government officials said.
To ensure that the residents vacate their flats, the government has also decided to give them rent for two years if a transit accommodation was not possible. Meanwhile, the BMC on Wednesday decided to take charge of vacating or demolishing Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (Mhada)-owned dilapidated buildings in Dongri. “A structural audit of old buildings will be conducted,” said Vivek Rahi, assistant commissioner of the B ward.
Praveen Pardeshi, municipal commissioner, said as a policy decision, Mhada can borrow BMC resources (manpower and machinery) to demolish any dilapidated or illegal building.
“There are currently 14,227 buildings under Mhada, of which, 23 are critically dangerous. We will look to redevelop those buildings first. We have been working on a policy with the CM for this and before the next cabinet meeting, the policy would be accepted. The policy states that the agency concerned will redevelop the dilapidated building through the tendering process. Only legal occupants of the cessed buildings will benefit from this policy,” said Uday Samant, Mhada president.
In a meeting convened by Samant, Fadnavis was told that of the 14,227 cessed buildings (cess is collected by Mhada through the civic body for repairs of the notified pre-1967 buildings as landlords refused to do the same, citing that the rent they get from tenants was paltry owing to the rent-control law), most of them are in congested localities and weakened by illegal constructions. The resistance from tenants to vacate the buildings is often cited as a major hurdle in the redevelopment. Tenants who have been staying for decades, don’t trust the landlords and developers, and are unwilling to vacate the houses, fearing that they would not get the same back.
To overcome hurdles in the way of the redevelopment of these buildings, most of which are not in a liveable condition, the state decided to acquire the buildings forcibly and develop them by Mhada. “The amendment will be for forcible acquisition of old and dilapidated and those announced as most dangerous (type C-1). The amendment will also empower agencies for action and construction of the buildings,” said an official from the housing department.
The officer said Mhada has identified seven to eight such clusters of buildings that are most dangerous and the ordinance can help them begin redevelopment immediately. The clusters also include non-cessed buildings that are in immediate need of redevelopment as they are constructed prior to 1969, when the Mumbai Repair and Reconstruction Board Act came into existence to deal with these buildings. The officer said tenants would have the option of appointing a private developer within a stipulated time, after which the acquisition by Mhada can initiated. The tenants living in illegal apartments (part of the Kesarbai building collapsed on Tuesday was illegal), will have to pay a certain premium for the apartment in the redeveloped building. There were 19,642 cessed buildings in island city, when the act came into existence and 5,415 of them are either redeveloped or demolished/collapsed. “The decision is in accordance with recommendations by the eight-member committee of MLAs appointed to discuss the redevelopment of cessed buildings. The committee has suggested the tri-partite agreement by Mhada with landlords and tenants by paying the due share of landlord of either 25% of the land cost at ready reckoner rate or 15% of the sealable component after redevelopment. The incentive FSI of up to 4 if the plot is minimum half-a-hectare can make the project feasible,” said another official.
Congress MLA Amin Patel, who was part of the committee of legislators, said, “There are number of redevelopment projects, which have been abandoned by the private developers. Appointing Mhada may enable government to complete it in a time-bound manner.”
To expedite the evacuation of tenants from dilapidated buildings, the state has decided to acquire vacant flats in buildings constructed by the SRA, MMRDA and the flats have to be handed over to the government by private builders. “The government, while forcibly vacating the tenant from dilapidated buildngs, will ensure that the tenants are either given transit accommodation or rent for two years,” said Vinod Ghosalkar, Mumbai Repair and Reconstruction Board chairman.
“We have decided to seek the legal opinion on this to avoid litigation. In case of any such litigation, we will cite the example of Kesarbai building and convince it that this is the only option left with the government for the redevelopment of such buildings,” the official said.
According to Mhada officials, they are planning to take up the redevelopment by appointing private contractors to ensure the quality. “We have appointed leading companies for the redevelopment of BDD chawls. The redevelopment of cessed buildings too will be on similar lines,” a Mhada official said.
Housing activist Chandrashekhar Prabhu said, “Mhada Act has enough provisions to acquire land on which dilapidated cessed buildings stand, and also provisions to acquire other lands which it intends to develop for a public purpose and it can also redevelop these properties under cluster model. If Mhada redevelops these cessed buildings in time bound manner and assures the tenants about quality, ensures timely completion, transit accommodation close to the original building, or offers rents, it may get positive response from the tenants from such buildings.”