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Thane building collapse: Mumbra tragedy a fallout of illegal construction boom

Deaths in building collapse yet again brought to fore the dangerous illegal construction business boom.

Written by Sharvari Patwa |
April 5, 2013 2:17:08 am

The death of 13 people who were buried under rubble in the Thane building collapse Thursday has yet again brought to fore the dangerous illegal construction business booming in Mumbra belt near Mumbai and the failure of the civic authorities to rein it in.

Real estate analysts point out that 2 lakh homes of the estimated 2.79 lakh across Thane and Kalwa-Mumbra-Diva townships are unauthorized. Figures from civic authorities reveal that 7.5 lakh or over 40 per cent of the of the estimated 18 lakh population in the region live in slums.

Unauthorised construction has been a major problem in Thane belt,and Thane city has mostly come out of it but in Mumbra and Diva,the Thane Municipal Corporation continues to struggle against illegal construction,said Thane Municipal Commissioner R A Rajeev.

“Unauthorised buildings keep coming up in Mumbra,Kalwa and Diva and we keep demolishing them,but it is a limited warfare,” he added.

Experts say the trend is concentrated in areas where infrastructure is inadequate for the growing population. In Mumbra,there was hardly a population of 45,000 in the 1990s. It has increased 20 times driving up illegal construction activity propelled by high demand.

This,says senior journalist Jayesh Samant of Loksatta’s Thane bureau,is the main reason for illegal real estate business flourishing in the area.

“The modus operandi is frightening. In a matter of three months,small-time builders encroach land and erect multi-storey buildings that are quickly absorbed by locals,” he says.

According to a civic official,most houses are low-priced and sold at flexible rates to ensure buyers take them. Several massive illegal residential settlements have come up in the past few years,pushed by real estate prices soaring in Mumbai’s shrinking housing space. “Working class families,migrants,and riot affected have been moving into illegal buildings in Kalwa,Mumbra-Diva areas,” said a senior civic official from Thane city.

“Builders often give away houses for almost nothing or in easy instalments to ensure houses get occupied. This makes it difficult for the civic body to demolish them,” said Samant.

Hussain Wagle,a Konkani Muslim resident of Mumbra,said,“An average family of five will have at least one in the “construction business”. Most illegal construction in Mumbra,a marsh city sandwiched between a reeking creek and mountains in a long strip tells a tale of a major shift in construction activity over the past few years.

“Buildings as tall as eight storeys have come up,some without lifts. People buy them as they are affordable,” says Wagle. Some big construction companies that tried to launch projects were disappointed for want of buyers.

In Mumbra,no construction laws are followed. “A small-time businessman can buy,encroach or usurp a plot and construct a building in a few months. The building that collapsed,as is the case with many others,was apparently constructed on an open nullah covered up by mud,” said a local activist.

Mumbra in numbers

The 1991 census shows Mumbra’s population as 44,217

Mumbra in 2012 had a little over 9 lakh population,says MLA Jitendra Ahwad

There are only 1.75 lakh registered voters

There was a 50% turnout in 2009 Assembly elections

Only two civic school run in whole of Mumbra-Kausa

There are 3 madarsas: Al-hadis,Darul-Fallah and Gareeb Nawaz Ashrafiya

Thane Municipal Corporation’s figures show that 123 illegal buildings were served notices

Hundreds more accused of flouting CRZ rules and other violations

While a small flat is available for Rs 4-5 lakh,newer flats cost between Rs 16 lakh and Rs 22 lakh

BPL cards issued to only 88 families

Builders often give away houses for almost nothing or in easy instalments to ensure houses get occupied

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