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Friday, May 4, 2012

COUNTDOWN TO MONSOON 2012 30% more buildings face threat of collapse: Pre-monsoon survey

 The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation's annual pre-monsoon survey of dilapidated buildings has shown a worrying 30% increase in the number of such structures. While last year the corporation found 244 crumbling private and civic buildings that were in need of demolition, the figure this year is 317. The rise has sent alarm bells ringing among civic officials, who plead helplessness in evicting residents of decaying structures. 
    Of the 317 dilapidated buildings pointed out in this year's survey, 268 are owned privately and the remaining 49 by the BMC. Most of the structures fall in the eastern suburbs: while the western suburbs and the island city have 114 and 46 crumbling buildings respectively, the eastern parts have 142. Among wards, L ward tops the list with 89 buildings in danger of collapse, followed by K-East that has more than 25 such structures. D ward (Tardeo, Nana Chowk) in the island city has 12 decaying buildings. 
    Every year, the monsoon brings along with it misery as old and rundown constructions cave in under the watery blitz. Every year, to prevent these tragedies, the BMC catalogues the buildings that are unfit for human habitation and follows up by serving eviction notices on their residents. The hitch is that it is nigh impossible to convince the tenants of dilapidated buildings to vacate, civic officials say. 
    "It is extremely difficult to persuade people to leave a decrepit building so that repair work can be carried out. Most people hope that their building will be redeveloped and that they will get extra floor space index. In this hope, they ignore even the most basic repair work," said a senior civic official. 
    This failure slowly adds to the tally of decaying buildings. What compounds the problem is the absence of powers that the BMC could use to drive residents out of rundown structures. 
    The BMC Act does not permit civic officials to cut the water supply to dilapidated building unless the water bills have not been cleared. Similarly, the electricity supply cannot be restricted to such buildings as per the Indian Electricity Act. "We have very limited powers since laws prevent us from taking stringent actions. We can only serve them eviction notices," said Harshad Kale, assistant municipal commissioner of L ward. 
Times View 
    Mumbai's house collapses, almost always during the monsoon months, have claimed scores of lives over the last decade. Residents cannot escape the blame in some cases, especially where they have made alterations to the building and damaged its structural stability. But many of the cases have involved buildings declared dilapidated by the administration where people have gone on living; residents often cite delay in repair and reconstruction as the main reason for their refusal to move out. The agencies involved in this process must ensure that residents do not have real excuses to offer for going on living dangerously.


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