Even as the demolition of five heritage structures at Willingdon Colony,Santacruz,in June led to a standoff between Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee (MHCC) and BMC,complaints from residents of the heritage Matharpacady village,Mazgaon,seem to have virtually gone unheard.
To preserve the historic character of their century-old neighbourhood,the Matharpacady Residents Welfare Association (MRWA),formed by over 120 resident families,has,since 2010,written to BMC and MHCC several times on the illegal construction activity in the village.
So far,residents have recorded unauthorised alterations/constructions on five of 42 bungalows that comprise the heritage precinct. In the past three years particularly,the South Mumbai ALM has been protesting the unchecked construction and alterations carried out on houses 19,and 21(A),located in the heart of the neighbourhood.
These illegal constructions have encroached on roads,sewage lines and even their own structures ruining the original heritage features of the area. The village is well-planned and has enough space for movement but these unchecked changes are putting a lot of strain on our limited infrastructure even fire brigades and ambulances cannot pass through smoothly. We dont want big buildings here. We are happy with our homes, said D Baptista,president of MRWA.
MRWA,apart from approaching BMC,had also written to MHCC. However,while the heritage committee was quick to act on the Willingdon Colony demolition,where residents were allegedly propped up by a rival builder,no response was forthcoming in this case.
MHCC chairman V Ranganathan said,I have not received their letters from the BMC office. I will have to check with them to see what these letters are and accordingly,we will address their issues. As per the heritage village precinct guidelines for Matharpacady,approved by the municipal commissioner in 2007 but pending with the state urban development department (UDD),footprint including the roofscape and verandah of the structures in the precinct must be maintained. Moreover,the guidelines put restrictions on height and any changes to the structures facades and architectural features.
As per a BMC circular dated August 14,for any developments,modifications or redevelopment of structures in grade-III structures and heritage precincts,permissions from MHCC is necessary.
For the three-storey structure 21 (A),according to letters dated August 7,2012,and November 3,2012,the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA),and the BMC respectively,in RTI responses to the MWRA,have said that no permissions for redevelopment/ modifications,had been given for the structures in question though residents allege the structure was demolished and redeveloped in 2011-12.
On February 28,a letter from the E ward office,said,On inspection made on February 20,no new work of recent origin or in progress was found on the site.About two months thereafter on May 6,another RTI response from the ward office stated that action was being initiated against the constructions under section 55 of the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act that deals with removal of unauthorised constructions temporary in nature.
Regarding bungalow 19,the corporation in a letter dated March 9,2012 said demolition of the illegal structures was scheduled for February 28,2012,however due to non-availability of Police force from Byculla Police Station,the same could not be carried out. A stay order on the demolition has been ordered by the city civil court.
Sanjog Kabare,assistant municipal commissioner of the E ward said,As the matter is subjudice no action can be taken for now as status quo has to be maintained. As far as bungalow 21 (A) is concerned,according to my reports,we have demolished the illegal constructions on October 4.
However,the association alleges the status quo has been flouted as changes to the structure continue unabated. Owners of the two bungalows concerned could not be reached for comment.