Building collapse: Dongri a hub of illegal constructions

Published: Jul 17, 2019, 17:18 IST | mid-day online desk

The buildings are located close to each other with a little space separating them. In many cases, illegal extensions of a building overlap adjacent structures

Building collapse: Dongri a hub of illegal constructions
Pic courtesy/Anurag Kamble

Dongri building collapse in south Mumbai on Tuesday which killed 14 persons once stood, is the hotbed of illegal constructions and forms part of the municipal ward that has the highest population density. As was evident on Tuesday, the vehicles parked haphazardly and the narrow bylanes posed hurdles for ambulances and rescue vans in reaching the spot of the incident.

The collapse of a part of Kesarbai building is not an isolated incident. In September 2017, 33 people were reported died when seven-storey Husaini building collapsed in Bhendi Bazar area, which is also part of the B ward of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). Dawood Ibrahim, the Underworld don once owned properties in Bhendi Bazaar. As police have launched a probe to fix responsibility, the Mhada (Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority) and the BMC are apparently playing the blame game over the ownership of the collapsed building. A senior police officer on Wednesday said the inquiry will find out who is the actual owner of the collapsed building and whether the residents were paying property tax.

Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, the State Housing Minister said the building was illegal and it was owned by a private trust. Meanwhile, underscoring the illegalities, a local resident stated the entire B ward has become the hub of unauthorised constructions, and that such alterations can be found in almost every building. Many of these buildings were built during pre-independence era. "There are several buildings that have been built by violating the norms. Though the BMC is aware about these violations, they prefer not to act as some officials have taken money from builders for allowing illegal constructions," claimed Rashid Pathan, an advocate who resides in Dongri.

Rais Sheikh, the BMC corporator who once used to live in the area, said illegal developments have taken place under the guise of carrying our repairs and maintenance. "These buildings have been built without permission from the BMC under the guise of carrying out structural repairs, which has further increased the load on already weakened structures," he said. Illegal parking is another major issue in the area, which has a population of 1.28 lakh packed into just 2.84 sq km, which often pose hurdles in case of emergency as was the case on Tuesday. "Honestly speaking, there is no rule. We all can do whatever we want to do. We only need hefty money to grease the palms of BMC officials and police. After paying money, you can add number of floors on every building," another resident said.

Also Read: Dongri building collapse: 35-year-old doesn't know wife, son died

"One can imagine what would happen if, may God forbid, these buildings catch fire. Even a fire brigade van cannot enter the bylanes," he added. The buildings are located close to each other with a little space separating them. In many cases, illegal extensions of a building overlap adjacent structures. When contacted, a senior BMC officer stated that most challenging task in redeveloping the old buildings was to pursue the tenants to evict their houses. These residents are reluctant to vacate their houses because property prices in south Mumbai are very high. Deputy Municipal Commissioner of the area, Harshad Kale, said, "the biggest challenge is that tenants refuse to vacate the buildings fearing that they will lose the prime property. Moreover, they also feel insecure about staying in transit camps till their original buildings are redeveloped."

Also Read: Mumbai: Chronology of building collapses in the city

Echoing the same, Saifee Burhani Upliftment Trust (SBUT), which is redeveloping 250 dilapidated buildings in south Mumbai, said citizens should take responsibility of their lives and support redevelopment wherever needed. "We are extremely saddened by the unfortunate collapse of the building. This incident has once again put the focus on the issue of dilapidated buildings in the area and tenants refusing to move out," the SBUT said.

With inputs from PTI

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