Building collapse:Dongri a hub of illegal constructions

Building collapse:Dongri a hub of illegal constructions

Rescue and relief work underway after the collapse of the four-storey Kesarbai building at Dongri in Mumbai. (PTI Photo)

Dongri enclave in south Mumbai, where the four-storey building which collapsed on Tuesday killing 14 persons once stood, is the hotbed of illegal constructions and forms part of the municipal ward that has the highest population density.

As was evident on Tuesday, the narrow bylanes and the vehicles parked haphazardly on roads posed hurdles for rescue vans and ambulances in reaching the spot of the incident.

The collapse of a part of Kesarbai building is not an isolated incident. In September 2017, 33 people died when seven-storey Husaini building collapsed in Bhendi Bazar area, which is also part of the B ward of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).

Underworld don Dawood Ibrahim once owned properties in Bhendi Bazaar.

As police have launched a probe to fix responsibility, the Mhada (Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority) and the BMC are apparently passing the buck on each other over the ownership of the collapsed building.

A senior police officer Wednesday said the inquiry will find out who is the actual owners of the building and whether the residents were paying paying property tax or cess.

State Housing Minister Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil Tuesday said the building was illegal and it was owned by a private trust.

Meanwhile, underscoring the illegalities, a local resident said the entire B ward has become the hub of unauthorised constructions, and that such alterations can be found in almost every building.

Many of these buildings were built during pre-independence era.

"There are several buildings that have been built by violating the norms. Though the BMC is aware about these violations, they prefer not to act as some officials have taken money from builders for allowing illegal constructions," claimed Rashid Pathan, an advocate who resides in Dongri.

BMC corporator Rais Sheikh, who once used to live in the area, said illegal developments have taken place under the guise of carrying our repairs and maintenance.

"These buildings have been built without a permission from the BMC under the guise of carrying out structural repairs, which has further increased the load on already weakened structures," he said.

Illegal parking is another major issue in Dongri, which has population of 1.28 lakh packed into just 2.84 sq km, which often pose hurdles in case of emergency as was the case on Tuesday.

"Honestly speaking, there is no rule. We all can do whatever we want to do. We only need hefty money to grease the palms of BMC officials and police. After paying money, you can add number of floors on every building," another resident said.

"One can imagine what would happen if, may God forbid, these building catch fire. Even a fire brigade van cannot enter the bylanes," he added.

The buildings are located close to each other with a little space separating them. In many cases, illegal extensions of a building overlap adjacent structures.

When contacted, a senior BMC officer said that most challenging task in redeveloping the old buildings was to pursue the tenants to evict their houses.

These residents are reluctant to vacate their houses because property prices in south Mumbai are very high.

Deputy Municipal Commissioner of the area, Harshad Kale, said, "the biggest challenge is that tenants refuse to vacate the buildings fearing that they will lose the prime property. Moreover, they also feel insecure about staying in transit camps till their original buildings are redeveloped," Kale said.

Echoing the same, Saifee Burhani Upliftment Trust (SBUT), which is redeveloping 250 dilapidated buildings in south Mumbai, said citizens should take responsibility of their lives and support redevelopment wherever needed.

"We are extremely saddened by the unfortunate collapse of the building. This incident has once again put the focus on the issue of dilapidated buildings in the area and tenants refusing to move out," the SBUT said.