THREE weeks after the Bombay High Court rapped the civic administration for its inability to tackle illegal dumping of nearly 70 per cent of the city’s solid waste and barred new real estate development permissions in Mumbai, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the state government have both indicated that neither would challenge the order.
On February 29, the High Court had halted the process of granting permissions for construction of new residential and commercial buildings, including malls, hotels, and restaurants, until the city’s solid waste treatment capacity got enhanced from 3,000 tonnes a day to 11,000 tonnes a day.
The restrictions had become applicable from March 1. Since then, all new construction work in the city has come to a halt. There is a fear now in the real estate industry as well as among buyers that the order will adversely impact even those looking to redevelop their properties.
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On this issue, the two-member bench had observed in its order, “We are conscious of the fact that a large number of redevelopment projects are ongoing in Mumbai and the existing occupants might have vacated their respective premises. Therefore, for the time being, we do not intend to impose any restriction on the grant of proposals or applications for redevelopment projects, including the construction of sale component.” The municipality’s reading of this is that the order’s ambit might extend to redevelopment of private properties in the suburbs but not in the island city. The BMC has, however, decided not to seek a clarification, fearing a rap from the court again.
The court had observed that it did not intend to impose restrictions on redevelopment projects, but there is confusion with the operative part of the order which excludes restrictions on the redevelopment of only cessed category buildings, slums, housing for societies on layouts owned by Mhada and the BMC and buildings destroyed by fire or collapse, besides cluster redevelopment.
Redevelopment of buildings that do not fall in any of these categories is an overarching trend in the suburbs, according to civic officials. At least 85 per cent of all projects submitted to the BMC between January 1, 2014, and September 30, 2015, were redevelopment projects. Also, Mumbai has close to 2,650 dilapidated buildings, at least 535 of them in the suburbs.
Sources in the BMC confirmed that Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta had held a meeting with senior officials, earlier this week, and decided that the BMC would not challenge the court order. Mehta, when contacted, said that “legal opinion is still being sought over the order”, but the BMC’s Chief Engineer (Development Plan) Vinod Chitore said, “There is no question of challenging the order. We will abide by the directives. Affected parties can approach the court for relief.”
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, when contacted, said that he was aware of the gravity of the situation. “The government will do something,” he said in a text message.
The court has made an exception for buildings to be constructed for hospitals or educational institutions. It has also said that it would not apply to repairs and reconstruction of existing buildings in cases where there was no plan to avail additional FSI over the used built-up area.
Maharashtra Chamber of Housing Industry President Dharmesh Jain said, “It is unfortunate that homebuyers and builders are being made to suffer for the BMC’s failure to manage solid waste.” Jain added that the MCHI would appeal against the order.
The court had rapped the BMC for permitting unabated development and “encouraging unsustainable growth”. The BMC does not hope to have the curb lifted any time soon.
The BMC has been asked to augment waste treatment capacity to at least 11,000 tonnes per day by June 30, 2017, nearly three times its current capacity. It has to set up facilities in various wards for segregating biodegradable waste, make it mandatory for housing societies to dispose wet waste at source etc.
According to the order, the civic body or the government would also be required to carry out a ‘scientific’ impact assessment of new construction activity on Mumbai’s infrastructure in the next ten years.