Mumbai building collapse: Why people still live in buildings that may collapse any moment; know the challenges

By: | Published: September 5, 2017 12:08 PM

There are more than 19000 buildings in South Mumbai that are more than 100-year old. These buildings, if ignored, will eventually get dilapidated, amounting to loss of life and property.

Mumbai building collapse, old buildings, redevelopment of old buildings, challenge, challenges with redevelopment, Municipal AuthoritiesIn our cities, preservation, upgradation and redevelopment of old buildings is often a concern.

A six-storey building collapsed in Mumbai’s Bhendi Bazaar area last week, killing dozens of people and injuring many others. Sadly, such incidents are reported from every part of the country, including Delhi, but hardly any lessons are learnt. As per data shared by the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB), more than 14,000 people have died between 2010 and 2015 owing to collapse of dilapidated buildings. On average 2,700 people lose their lives in different structural breakdowns every year.

This explains why in our cities, preservation, upgradation and redevelopment of old buildings is often a concern. In fact, many of our cities have structures older than 50 years where the burgeoning growth has ensured that the extensions cover existing allowable limits of ground coverage and FSI and the buildings are too old to meet requirements of owners. According to sources, over 35,000 buildings in Mumbai alone are more than 30 years old and have no FSI left. Of these, there are more than 19000 buildings in South Mumbai that are more than 100 years old. These buildings, if ignored, will eventually get dilapidated amounting to loss of life and property.

“Over the years, through lack of maintenance and ravages of weather (Mumbai, for example, gets heavy rains and frequent flooding that tends to accelerate corrosion of steel and damages the foundations), the buildings have also deteriorated. Their structural stability is in question. Though they are in dire need of extensive repairs, societies and individuals are starved of necessary funds required to carry them out. On the one hand, they do not have the resources and expertise to handle the repairs on their own, and on the other hand, the families of members have expanded and they need larger space to accommodate themselves,” R Shobha, National Director, Project Management, Colliers International India.

Owners and tenants are also hesitant to upgrade the buildings because often the building designs no longer meet changing requirements and their utility as well as resale value is low. Some of the common factors cited include absence of common facilities like gymnasium, security room and society office, lack of open spaces for children and lack of services such as closed plumbing and electrical lines, lifts and underground water tanks.

The future of these buildings is at stake and there is no scope for them except for redevelopment. Redevelopment refers to the process of reconstruction of the residential/commercial premises by demolition of the existing structure and construction of a new structure. This is done by utilizing the potential of the land by exploiting additional FSI and TDR as specified under the Development Control Regulations of the city Municipal Corporation.

However, “there are several challenges with redevelopment. One of the major challenges is that the society (of owners) may not have the unity or financial ability to undertake the temporary rehabilitation of residents and the development of the building. A developer, on the other hand, may find it unattractive given the costs and risks involved if they are unable to build additional space for sale at market value and if the profits from such sale are not attractive. Redevelopment also faces roadblocks when owners hesitate to take collective decisions and the developers fail to share benefits with residents fairly,” says Shobha.

To overcome these challenges, the government has taken several steps. Several cities have specific guidelines to encourage redevelopment. Most of the City Municipal Corporations also have specific redevelopment rules and regulations. Such regulations cover the responsibilities of both the societies and the developers. The Redevelopment Regulations in Mumbai, for example, cover duties of the developer, transfer rights, minimum infrastructure to be provided to residents, temporary rehabilitation, area of development and price to be paid.

“In order to make redevelopment attractive to developers, the government has also allotted additional FSI of up to 40% in certain cases and the TDR rights to societies directly. Municipal Authorities regularly inspect these structures and issue notices for vacating and redevelopment based on the state of dilapidation. And yet challenges remain in execution with delays in residents vacating the properties and lack of clarity in the accommodation to be provided, construction timelines and entitlements for the residents,” informs Shobha.

It’s, thus, a mammoth task and it is imperative for all stakeholders – various government agencies, residents, the community and the developers – to keep a watch and trigger timely action to avoid collapse and resulting disaster.

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