Calamities arising out of collapsing buildings make news, but there’s nothing remotely new about illegal structures dotting the cityscape, be it Mumbra, Mumbai or Dombivli.
The seven-storey building that collapsed last Thursday killing 74 people and injuring scores more was one among 3,000-odd illegal structures that have come to occupy the Mumbra region. And this figure bears no comparison to the 78,000 in Kalyan-Dombivli that have sprouted roughly over the last two decades, with a few dating back to the days even before the corporation was born.
According to the Kalyan-Dombivli Municipal Corporation (KDMC) Commissioner Ramnath Sonawane, the number of illegal buildings in the area has gone up from 3,600 in 1990 to 68,920 in 2006. And nearly 9,000 have come up after 2006. “There’s hardly any region in the country which has not been infested with illegal construction,” Sonawane said. He added that he hasn’t given in to political pressure and has initiated action against unauthorised constructions.
“We are currently carrying out demolition of illegal structures at Subhash Road in Dombivli. Such actions are being taken at several locations. In the last two years, I have initiated action again 2,000 buildings and FIRs have been lodged against 100 developers,” said Sonawane. (He has called this reporter to his office to share details of the FIRs.)
The commissioner said that as a policy, the corporation does not provide water to illegal structures. Tightening the noose on violators, the authorities are also slapping a penalty on property taxes levied on the unauthorised structures.
According to records, 26% of the 3 lakh edifices in KDMC jurisdiction are illegal. In the last seven years, the city’s illegitimate concrete structures have been growing at 13 per cent, which means that 9,000 buildings in the area have come up on the shaky foundation of compromised safety standards and breached construction norms.
In fact, flouting regulations precedes the creation of the civic body. “Many illegal structures in our jurisdiction came up before the inception of the Kalyan-Dombivli Municipal Corporation in 1983,” said Sonawane. But as per the top civic official, KDMC isn’t the locus of the problem. “Across the country, there won’t be more than 10-15% buildings that are completely legal. Some 15-20% buildings would be partially legal. It’s not only Mumbra or Thane or Kalyan. Any major city faces the same problem,” Sonawane said.