Redevelopment of Vadodara slum: Developer announces mall, luxury homes at site without govt nod

VMC claims to be unaware of builder’s commercial project; row also over retention wall construction

Written by Aditi Raja | Vadodara | Updated: January 8, 2016 5:13 am
vmc slum759 The hoardings put up at the site have no mention about the EWS housing for displaced Sanjaynagar residents, but only mall and luxury apartments. (Source: Express photo)

Ahmedabad-based Manav Infrastructure Ltd has announced a mall, a multiplex and luxury homes in Sama area on Mangal Pandey Road along Vishwamitri river. This was the site of Sanjaynagar, a slum from where more than 700 families were evicted in December 2014 and October 2015 by civic authorities.

At the far end of the premises towards the river, a board with a photograph of Chief Minister Anandiben Patel demarcates it as the site for houses to rehabilitate those evicted from Sanjaynagar slum under the Mukhyamantri Gruh Awaas Yojana (MSY).

Even as Manav Infrastructure Ltd, which has been also awarded the contract for the slum redevelopment, has started work on the project by building a retention wall by reclaiming land from the river, Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC), which cleared construction of the EWS flats, claimed it was unaware that a mall is also coming up adjacent to the MSY site.

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While, VMC commissioner HS Patel asserted he was unaware of any such mall construction, the civic body on December 15 put out a public notice to procure land for widening of the Mangal Pandey road from 18 m to 24 m — a pre-requisite for constructing a mall. The commissioner, however, said any such move was “impractical”.

The builder, which claimed it has put up the banner for the mall to grab “eyeballs”, admitted that it has received no clearance from the purpose from the government yet.

In a related development, on January 2, the VMC transferred out Executive Engineer of Affordable Housing Rajesh Shimpi, days after he served a notice on the developer for the “encroachment” on the Vishwamitri, citing the danger of flood. The notice was for building a retention wall, to stop flooding of the project.

The VMC awarded the project to redevelop the land measuring 4.27 lakh square feet, under the PPP model, to Manav Infrastructure Pvt Ltd, whose subsidiary Shree Balaji Construction, put the banner for luxury homes, and a mall with multiplex.

Manav Infrastructure was awarded the project under a resolution, dated June 13, 2014, for net premium amount of Rs 21 crore, after deducting the construction cost of Rs 35.89 crore for 771 flats of around 300 sq feet to rehabilitate displaced families and also 11 shops, removed from the area.

However, the on-site advertising banner by Shree Balaji Group promises luxurious 2, 2.5, 3 and 4 bedroom apartments, a mall with a multiplex, a bowling alley, spas and restaurants.

On the hoardings along the boundary of the plot, there is no mention of the MGY project. The MGY hoarding, in fact, stands tucked away at the far back with a separate approach path.

Municipal Commissioner HS Patel said: “The minimum road width required for a mall is 24 m. We have put forth a public notice to revise the road line of the area and invited objections for the same, as per the procedure. We know that it is not practical to impose a road widening project there as a portion of the land belongs to the Army.” When The Indian Express asked Patel about the upcoming mall, he said, “I am not aware”

The civic body has received several objections from private owners and other residential complexes nearby to the road widening plan. Additionally, in a letter to the Municipal Commissioner, former Congress corporator Minal Gohil has questioned intention of the civic body.

Gohil stated, “This proposal to widen the road clearly seems to be for the benefit of the developer as according to the GDCR (General Development Control Rules), there must be an actual or a proposed road of a minimum 24 m for permission to be granted to build a mall. The public notice to begin process of road widening is to pave the way for this mall, that was never part of the original redevelopment plan.”

The Gujarat government’s policy for ‘Rehabilitation and Redevelopment of Slum Regulations, 2010’, was amended in July 2013, through a resolution of the Urban Development Department (UDD), “in order to make urban Gujarat slum-free”.

The policy or in-situ rehabilitation of slums on public land by public-private partnership under MGY stated: “The incentives given to developers include a maximum permissible FSI (floor space index) of 3 for the purpose of development on slum rehabilitation plot only”. The policy stated, “If a part of in-situ slum rehabilitation plot remains unutilised after slum rehabilitation, it will be available to private developer for development for free sale within the existing GDCR.”

According to the GDCR, the maximum permissible FSI for private developers is two. However, the competent authority can permit the FSI on the basis of the original area, if the developer is prepared to release the land affected by road widening or for construction of new road without claiming any compensation thereof.

Under the policy, the developer is also exempted from applicable municipal and revenue charges for the slum rehabilitation work only.

When contacted, chairman of Balaji Group (Manav Infrastructure) Ashish Shah said that the group had put up the hoardings at the site to generate interest.

“We intend to construct a mall, Agora-2, at the location, but it is only a dream right now as we have not yet sought permission for the portion of the land meant for commercial development. At the moment, we are concentrating on the construction of 810 flats for SRS scheme instead of the 771 requested by the VMC. We have received the permission to begin the construction just a few days ago. The commercial project on the other part of the land will help us recover the costs and will include residential complex as well as commercial,” he told The Indian Express over phone.

Shah said the proposed road widening would not benefit the proposed Agora mall, as it also meant a “land cut” for the developer too. “The government has granted me a (3) FSI for this plot, which is the highest in Vadodara,” he said.

Under the slum rehabilitation policy amendment, the land which is located on the road having 18 meter or more width would be allowed construction to the height of 70 m.

According to Shah, the group has planned to construct 27 six-storey towers with five flats on each floor for displaced Sanjaynagar families and six 13-storey towers for luxury apartments.

He clarified: “An elevated wall will separate the two premises in order to ensure that the private owners will not be able to see the slum rehabilitation buildings.”

Shah said the decision shift the mandatory Mukhyamantri Gruhawas Yojana hoarding to “to the interior due to trespassing from the adjoining slum area.” Shah also claimed his company is paying the rent for housing of the evicted slumdwellers for 12 months.

A beneficiary of the redevelopment project and lawyer Vijay Solanki, who moved the court against the redevelopment of Sanjaynagar as it “stood on a disputed private land”, said the government policy makes it mandatory for the developer to ensure participation of slum-dwellers in the process of mapping, planning and survey of the project.

Solanki said: “Forget about taking us into confidence, this developer has, in fact, not even shown us the site map. It is taken for granted that he is free to develop the entire land, which was a private land, the way he likes. If the mall and luxury homes occupy the major portion of the prime land, the homes for the poor families will be built on the land reclaimed from the river. It will make the buildings dangerous during floods in the river.”

About the retention wall, Commissioner Patel said, “There was a condition that the developer must construct a retention wall to protect the project from floods. However, we will not allow any encroachment in the natural river body. I have asked district inspector of the Government Land Records to check the wall and report to me. This wall is not part of the property for redevelopment.”

In his defence, Shah stated: “There have been incidents of waterlogging during heavy rain due to overflowing Vishwamitri, posing threat to the slum areas. We have begun constructing the wall with necessary consent by the structural engineer suggested by the VMC, who has asked that the distance between the project and the retention wall should be between 10 and 15 meters.”

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