Parel building fire example of redevelopment mess in Mumbai
The 16-storey Crystal Towers is a redeveloped version of four-storey Sopariwala Mansion, which came down in 2006, 60 years after it was built.mumbai Updated: Aug 23, 2018 01:06 IST
The Crystal Towers in Parel, where a fire killed four and injured 27 on Wednesday, is representative of how developers and flat owners commit irregularities in redeveloped buildings, according to experts.
With every square foot costing thousands of rupees, builders as well as residents resort to every possible way of encroachment, and the Parel high-rise was no exception. The result? Residents lost their lives as there was no refuge area or open balconies to take shelter or prevent suffocation.
The 16-storey Crystal Towers is a redeveloped version of four-storey Sopariwala Mansion, which came down in 2006, 60 years after it was built. The owner, Razak Ismail Supariwala of Sapna Developers, redeveloped the building using an FSI of 4 applicable to cessed structures and handed over the possession without getting the occupation certificate (permission issued by the civic body to occupy a newly built structure), ignoring the alterations made to the niche and floor bed areas by flat owners.
Some flat owners even occupied the area between the hanging parapet and outer wall of their flats.
“The developer built flats in the refuge area and the space earmarked for a common gymnasium. A few flats were also constructed in the parking area on the first floor. The gross violation of rules acted as a hurdle in obtaining the occupation certificate (OC). BMC officials were aware of the violations when the residents started to occupy the flats in 2012, but it started the process of prosecuting the builder, architect and residents only in 2016,” said a resident of the building, requesting anonymity.
Supariwala, however, said he was in the process of applying for the OC.
“We were in the process of applying for the occupation certificate. Of the four flats constructed in the refuge area, three were demolished, while the remaining one was to be removed soon. The flats constructed on the sixteenth floor, in place of the gymnasium shown in the building plan, were to be regularised using the remaining FSI,” he said, adding the civic body had prosecuted him and the residents in 2016 for occupying the flats without an OC and the legal proceedings were on.
“BMC officials have been surveying the alterations. We were asked why we moved in without an OC, but we had no choice as the developer stopped giving us the compensation for alternative accommodation from 2012,” said Jitendra Chauhan, one of the residents.
The building has defaulted on property tax for the past five years, with the dues amounting to more than ₹1 crore. The residents had been at loggerheads with the developer over payment of the tax, besides other issues, including maintenance. “It is not true that all residents stopped paying. Some of them have dues, but for a few months or a year. They didn’t want to pay because the developer was ignoring his duty,” said Chauhan.
The residents had held a meeting last Saturday and decided to bear the cost of pest control, repairs of water tanks and other paltry charges. Supariwala said he did not maintain the building, as flat owners did not pay the maintenance for the past five years. “Despite that, I have been paying the electricity and water bills and footing the security services bills,” he said.
Kishor Desai, assistant municipal commissioner, F/South ward, said, “The building proposal department had served notices to the developer and the tenants for unauthorised occupation of the flats. They moved court and the matter was subjudice. There was nothing we could do.”
First Published: Aug 23, 2018 01:06 IST