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Mumbai’s illegal buildings:

A building’s overall legality can be verified by the availability of an occupation certificate and original drawings approved by the BMC.

Written by Anuj Puri |
November 23, 2013 5:12:19 am

The problem of illegal buildings in Mumbai – and their impact on the existence of Mumbai’s citizens and organisations,as well as its real estate market – is not a recent phenomenon. In fact,it is as old as the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) itself. Whether it is the result of corruption and collusion or lack of vigilance,the issue has always persisted in India’s financial capital – also the country’s most space-challenged city.

However,the issue of illegal buildings started intensifying from 1995 onward. This was when the BMC introduced a slew of new regulations pertaining to development control,floor space index (FSI) and transfer of development rights (TDR).

What followed was a significant increase in violations such as consumption of excessive FSI,buildings being built higher than permitted,flouting of CRZ and air space regulations,and projects being built without environmental clearances. Yet another common violation is the illegal utilisation of open spaces that must mandatorily be maintained around buildings.

Considering that the problem of illegal construction is rampant throughout Greater Mumbai as well as Thane,the Kalyan-Dombivali belt,and Ulhasnagar,it is impossible to define a focal point of highest incidence. What is certain is that the problem has been more or less kept under control in Navi Mumbai,where CIDCO enforces strict norms on such matters. The rest of the city seems to have been,and continues to be,wide open to the rampant spread of illegal constructions.

The fallout of illegal buildings or constructions on the city is severe. In the first place,residents of such buildings face the constant risk of disruption and displacement — as such these buildings are liable to be identified as illegal and consequently demolished without much notice.

Also,since illegal additional constructions are not part of the original approved building plans,the entire project is often rendered structurally unsound. Obviously,illegal buildings also represent a trap for investors who are unaware of the illegal status of the property.

Due to the huge shortage of FSI within Mumbai and its surroundings,illegal constructions are on an inexorable increase. When development clearances and increased FSI are not available,illegal buildings are,and will always be,an unfortunate but logical consequence in areas defined by huge demand for built-up spaces and no supply of new land parcels.

Also,the fact that obtaining all necessary permits to go ahead with the construction of a project is so tedious,expensive and time-consuming,is contributing a lot to the incidence of illegal buildings in Mumbai.

Though this is not always the case,property prices tend to be lower in illegally constructed buildings. In a city like Mumbai,where astronomically high property prices represent the greatest rift between people and homes,this factor plays a significant role in maintaining demand for any kind of available space. Since demand for lower-priced homes is so high,there is bound to be all kinds of supply,including the kind that does not pass the legal litmus test.

A building’s overall legality can be verified by the availability of an occupation certificate and original drawings approved by the BMC. However,it is beyond a layperson’s capacity to verify whether the offered space lies within the approved part of a project or is an illegal extension.

Mumbai is not alone when it comes to the plague of illegal structures – most other Indian cities have their share of problems as well. The notable exceptions are cities where development rules are more flexible and practical,or are enforced with greater strictness. Some of these cities are New Delhi,Hyderabad,Chandigarh and Bangalore.

Ahmedabad,which earlier had major issues with FSI violations,clamped down seriously after the earthquake in 2001 and completely overhauled its regulation process. As a result,the incidence of illegal construction in Ahmedabad has reduced considerably.

The author is chairman & country head,Jones Lang LaSalle India.

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