Navi Mumbai: Angry residents halt unauthorised soil testing at Vashi societies

Updated: Oct 11, 2019, 07:54 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon | Mumbai

NMMC, CIDCO deny having ordered the work in the societies that house supposedly dilapidated structures

Exterior of some of the 30-year-old buildings declared 'extremely dangerous'
Exterior of some of the 30-year-old buildings declared 'extremely dangerous'

The roaring soil testing machines at the JN type (a type of building structure) apartments at Vashi's sector 9 have come to a grinding halt after angry residents objected to the same and complained to civic authorities. Soil testing was started in the Gulmohar Society compound as part of a sinister plan to demolish JN2 type buildings for redevelopment, which is being opposed by several residents as the plan lacks transparency, alleged resident Kiran Sawant. Mid-day, on September 23, had highlighted the plight of the residents. Groups of citizens under the banner of Gulmohar Mitra Mandal had approached civic authorities to clarify if the soil testing has been approved. When the officials responded in the negative, the groups asked for the noisy work to be stopped.

"Some people, obviously at the behest of unknown builders, tried to bully us around and continue with the work, which we collectively resisted," said another resident Nirmala Thorat. Gulmohar and Ashirwad societies, victims of water and power cuts since June, have been resisting redevelopment attempts by some of their office-bearers due to lack of transparency and authorisation. The society office-bearers were not democratically elected, residents say. "There have been no elections for the past several years and we have been complaining to the registrar of societies," said Sumesh George of Ashirwad society.

Citizen group activist BN Kumar has taken up the issue with CIDCO, demanding to know its role in the redevelopment and structural audit. "CIDCO responded to an RTI saying that it is not its job since the buildings have already been handed over to the societies," Kumar said. The Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) has declared almost all CIDCO buildings in Vashi as extremely dangerous under C1 category and served eviction notices to 54 societies.

"There is an obvious link between the unseen builders and civic officials as entire condominiums have been declared extremely dangerous without even structural audits," said another resident, Anil Singh. "The NMMC put up warning notices on the basis of some random testing. Shockingly, several buildings which are well-maintained have also been clubbed with so-called dilapidated structures," said Sony Joseph, another resident.

Samel Divakar, Vashi Ward officer, said, "The society residents' association had given the soil testing work to some private contractor, which was opposed by other residents. The local NMMC ward office has nothing to do with their internal matter." Divakar added, "As on date, we are abiding by the court order, which has already declared these buildings dilapidated and risky for occupancy. We disconnected the water supply, but the action was stopped due to pressure from our superiors." Meanwhile, a senior CIDCO official said, "We have nothing to do with the structures which have been handed over to respective societies."

750
No. of buildings served eviction notices by the NMMC

The issue

Navi Mumbai is on the throes of a massive housing crisis as about 750 residential buildings constructed by the City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) about 30 years ago, have been declared “extremely dangerous” Notices proclaiming the buildings as 'extremely dangerous' greet people at almost every nook and corner in Vashi's sectors 9, 10 and 16. The notices could around 45,000 people living in 9,000 flats.

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