An estimated 40-50 highrise and redevelopment projects in south and central Mumbai are stuck as the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has capped their vertical growth at 77 metres (about 22 floors). The reason: they fall within a 10-km radius of the IMDs Doppler Radar,and could,therefore,obstruct its functioning.
Installed atop the 18-storey Archana building in Colabas Navy Nagar area in South Mumbai,the Doppler Radar is expected to predict weather patterns and is capable of weather surveillance up to 500 km. The Maharashtra government decided to set up the radar after the July 2005 deluge.
Two years ago,a no-objection certificate from the IMD was made mandatory for highrise buildings within a radius of 10 km around the Doppler Radar,which covers nearly all of South and Central Mumbai,including prime real estate hubs of Napean Sea Road,Girgaum,Mazgaon,Wadala,Worli,Mahalaxmi,Dharavi and Mohammed Ali Road.
We had asked the civic body and state government to provide us with alternate sites for installing the Doppler Radar so that highrises in south Mumbai dont obstruct its functioning. We were provided other alternatives like open plots and existing structures of various government agencies,but none of those buildings could have sustained the weight of the 15-tonne Doppler Radar. We were then forced to install it at the existing site. At present,the Doppler Radar is on the 16th floor,so we cannot allow buildings taller than 16 floors as it obstructs the functioning of the radar, said S G Kamble,Director of Doppler Weather Radar,IMD.
He added that the IMD was provided a site atop a hill in Aarey Colony,but the radar could not be transported to the spot since there was no access road.
According to Kamble,buildings beyond the permitted height could obstruct the radar beam which travels up to 500 km and studies cloud patterns and behaviour. The radars beam cannot penetrate a building in its path,leading to loss of data,he said.
Although there are some buildings which already obstruct the radar,the IMD has now capped the height of proposed buildings to 77 metres to avoid further problems. This is already a problem,and we are finding it difficult to study weather patterns in some cases due to loss of data. We want to ensure that the Doppler Radar can function properly and any further obstruction needs to be avoided, said Kamble.
According to data available with the IMD,Mumbai,15 proposals for new projects were received since March 2012,of which only five were cleared. We have not received many proposals as most developers who have proposed heights of beyond 77 metres hesitate to approach the IMD for fear of refusal. It is a formula-based rule,not a discretionary one, said Kamble.
With several of their marquee projects in trouble,various organisations like the Maharashtra Chamber of Housing Industry (MCHI),Confederation of Real Estate Developers Associations of India (CREDAI) and the Property Developers Association (PDA) have approached the state government. On Monday evening,a group of developers met Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan,who reportedly assured them that he would take up the matter with the Centre.
The mandatory NOC from IMD restricts the height of highrises at 80 metres,which will affect development and construction activity across the city. Construction of more than 50 highrise buildings is set to be affected by this clause. The rule is relaxed in cases where an existing building in the line is taller than the proposed building, said Pujit Aggarwal,CEO of Orbit Corporation and general secretary of PDA.
Among the stalled projects are redevelopment projects. For instance,a proposed 157-metre highrise in Mazgaon has been asked to reduce its height to 75 metres. However,the developer,Redstone Group,has already constructed about 82 metres. The project has been held up for the last 14 months. Although we have provided for the 240 tenements under the rehabilitation scheme,the construction of the saleable componenet has been stuck, said Afzal Ladak,director of Redstone Group.
The height restriction has brought the process of redevelopment of cessed buildings and other highrise buildings to a complete halt. Our members take up many development projects in mill land,factory land as well as slum areas where Floor Space Index (FSI) of 2,2.5,3 and 4 have to be consumed,and unless height is increased,such areas cannot be developed, said Jayanth Banthia of MCHI-CREDAI in a letter to the Chief Secretary.
Many highrises already exist in the vicinity of the Doppler Radar,including many government-owned buildngs,and they cannot be pulled down now. Hence,the present location of the Doppler Radar cannot give effective results anyway, he added.
Incidentally,the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporations highrise committee cleared as many as 62 proposals for highrises in the first half of this year,many of which fall within the stipulated 10-km radius of the Doppler Radar. Most of the proposals that have been cleared are of buildings with more than 40 storeys.