5 Ways To Solve Mumbai’s Illegal Building Problem

Mumbai has a whopping 56,000 illegal buildings, all of which are a huge strain on the city’s resources including water and power. The Maharashtra government wants to deal with this by regularising these buildings, making them legal. But that is no guarantee that this problem won’t crop up again in the future. Is there a way to stop this permanently? NDTV talked to various urban planners and here are their top 5 suggestions to deal with this mess.

1) Make Sure Building Codes Are Followed

Most developers construct their buildings first and then seek permissions from authorities later, allowing them to bypass all standards and procedures set in the building code. This is dangerous as the materials used in construction could be of inferior quality, safety & security are not taken into account and the building may collapse over time. The government should ensure that all projects follow building codes and immediately demolish the ones that don’t.

2) Don’t Allow Alterations In Approved Plans

Another favourite trick of developers is to take an approved plan and design extensions and alterations. So a 2-bedroom apartment may suddenly lose its balcony and gain an extra bedroom or vice-versa. Building plans are approved only after a proper study is made of its capacity and durability. Altering these plans means adding extras that could compromise the strength of the building. The government must ensure that alterations are not allowed once a plan has been approved, unless there is good cause.

“It is incorrect for any government to regularize illegal structures. It will only give developers an opportunity to construct more illegal buildings, in the hope that they will be regularised someday” – Rajiv Mishra, Architect and Town Planner

3) Ensure That Building Laws Are Consistent

In many cases, building laws are changed every other year, leading to situations where a legal building could suddenly become illegal. For instance, a developer may have gotten permission to build a 100-storey apartment, started construction and reached the 80th floor – only to find out that the laws have changed, and he can only build a 50-storey building. To prevent this, the government should come out with uniform laws governing Floor-Space Index (FSI) and zoning regulations and make sure that they are in force for an extended period of time.

4) Punish Builders Who Break The Rules

Most developers who break the rules and construct illegal buildings are confident that they will not be found out. They are counting on the government being too slow to react and feel that they can bribe their way out of a mess. The government should fix high penalties for these errant builders and even consider harsh prison sentences to deter such behaviour.

“Developers should know that the government is taking this offence seriously and that it wants to prevent this from happening in the future as well. That can only happen if strong penalties and conditions are laid down” – Ashutosh Limaye, Head – Research and REIS, JLL India.

5) Hold The Government Accountable Too

Last, but not the least – the government should be held accountable for allowing this problem to happen. Red-tape, a corrupt system and a general lack of interest mean that there is no proactive approach by local authorities to identify and stop illegal construction. How else can you explain multi-story buildings coming up without any approvals? Local authorities must pull up their socks, setup a transparent system and conduct checks using satellite-mapping to identify unauthorized construction and work to prevent this problem from coming up.


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