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RM Reports

The epidemic of Mumbai building collapses

Anushree Ghosh,

“This building is dangerous. It may collapse at any time. Enter at your own risk. So goes a warning sign at the entrance to a building in Mumbai. Buildings that crumble are an old tradition in this city.” – Dilip D’Souza, author, and activist

Elements constituting structures deteriorate with time, and repair is the mandatory law to follow when the signs of damage are visible. The Buildings show crumbling symptoms much before they actually collapse; and when neglected for years, they become ‘the Wells of Death’. D’ Souza in his article ‘Nobody touches the Act’ describes it as an “epidemic” that is an Old Bombay tradition. Accounting the roots of this epidemic, he mentions the 1996 Tavadia building collapse in Bora Bazaar and the Saki Naka hillside collapse. One of the major causes pointed out by D’Souza is the occupancy by the descendants of World War II immigrant of  Mumbai who were given houses on low rents to control the exorbitant prices asked by the landlords. Today, such meager amounts cannot aid the landlord in the maintenance of the dilapidated buildings, and the residents cannot leave due to the skyrocketed rents of Mumbai.

As of yet, the epidemic has found no cure. Last year, 17 people died in a building collapse in suburb Ghatkopar, Mumbai. And still, many old buildings are standing erect with wounded arms and legs but hardly anything is done to improve the conditions. Repair and conservation of the old buildings of Mumbai are a major area of concern. As per the report published by “Financial Express” on Sept 5, 2017 –

“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 a loss of life and property.”

The complete demolition of these buildings for redevelopment faces several issues – lack of financial support to the society and no consensus among owners, tenants, and developers. Often, the developers find it too risky to invest on redeveloping old buildings. The Brihan Mumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) categorizes such buildings into C-1 (most dangerous), C-2 (structural repairs required) and C-3 (minor repairs required). However, categorizing should be followed by further actions where BMC fails to follow the protocols in time. In Sept 2015, a bench of Justices BR Gavai and MS Karnik stated that the BMC is seldom ready to present its side of an argument on a case that was filed to seek permission for a building’s demolition. The bench also accused the BMC officials of preparing incorrect reports as demanded by the developers.

Pressed strongly under the debris of interests of the various stakeholders, Mumbai needs to crawl out and breathe in the fresh air of redevelopment. It is crucial for the residents, government agencies, societies and developers to opt out for redevelopment in time before the epidemic causes more harm.

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