South Mumbai buildings found to have most deviations from their original plans
C, D wards saw most alterations to original building plans, survey reveals; civic body to check if changes were illegal
Malabar Hill, Girgaum, Nana Chowk, along with Pydhonie and Kalbadevi, which come under C and D administrative wards (part of South Mumbai), saw the most alterations to the original plans of their buildings , a civic body survey revealed.
According to the survey conducted by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) using the 360-degree Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) technology, there were 6,296 deviations from the original plans across buildings in the C and D ward. Now, in the second phase of the survey, the BMC will be scrutinising the changes to see if they were illegal.
Last week, HT had reported LiDAR had detected 33, 000 alterations to buildings across the city. Of these, 3, 644 changes were found in C ward alone, whereas nearly 2, 652 alterations —the second-highest — were found in the buildings of D ward (comprising areas like Malabar Hill, Girgaum, Tardeo, Nan Chowk, Walkeshwar and Mahalaxmi).
The LiDAR project, which excludes slums, was announced in 2017, at a cost of ₹12 crore. The technology, coupled with video-recordings, measures the length, breadth and height of properties and roads on which they stand. The survey will help the civic body maintain records of any changes made to the buildings. Moreover, it will give the civic body an opportunity to generate nearly an additional ₹500 crore, from the revised property tax, according to sources. The BMC on an average collects around ₹5,000 crore in property taxes annually.
A civic official confirmed, “The structural changes are compared with the original plans of the buildings . Majority of the deviations found in this particular ward were changes in floors of the buildings and alterations to balconies. There were changes in the height of the buildings as well as to the open spaces that need to be left by the developers.”
Rais Shaikh, Samajwadi Party leader from Byculla, which has several old buildings, said, “Changes made by citizens during repairs are of a minor nature. However, vertical changes are done with a clear nexus between developers, architects, Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (Mhada) and BMC officials. These alterations are a huge loss to the civic body.”
According to another official, there are nearly 4, 000 buildings in C ward, of which around 3, 000 buildings are maintained by the Mhada’s repair board. “Several such buildings are under repair and most structural changes or alterations are carried out during these repairs. The survey cannot be considered as accurate, because of which the findings will be verified in the second phase of the survey.”
In the second phase, the respective wards of the properties will issue notices to the owners and verify the changes. The BMC will then impose property tax on owners of the structures for the alterations accordingly. The civic body is expecting a jump in its revenue. Senior officials chose not to respond on this matter despite repeated attempts.
In March this year, former assistant municipal commissioner of C ward, Jivak Ghegadmal, was suspended by the state government for not taking action against an illegal building in Pydhonie.
Experts have placed the blame on BMC’s poor vigilance of illegal structures and an alleged nexus involving its own officials. Housing activist and advocate Vinod Sampat said, “There will be more illegalities found if every building is physically surveyed. However, these illegal alterations will continue since there is a whole nexus between civic officials and developers. Files of building plans have gone missing from the BMC office in the past , which clearly shows the civic body’s seriousness.”