27th September 2013, Mumbai: Buildings are like our body. They need to be kept fit and in working order. If neglected, deterioration can be rapid. Sadly, our administrators neglect regular building maintenance, and this is seen everywhere -- from Mantralaya to BMC offices, from Municipal schools to hospitals, police stations and even courts.
There is a popular misconception that building collapses have something to do with illegal construction. Whenever buildings collapse, politicians are quick to point out that it was an illegal structure, in order to escape responsibility. Please note, if a collapsed building is also illegal in the eyes of local authorities, that is coincidental. Legality has no connection with the stability of the structure.
The larger issue is that there is virtually no option of good housing for all economic strata of our population in our city.
Today, housing is the only sector where poor citizens have accepted degraded quality of life - even at the cost of their own lives . Poor quality of water, sanitation, hygine, pollution, garbage, etc. are add ons to this degradation.
Except Mumbai, there is no other city in the world, or even in India - where more than 60% of population have accepted slums as their habitat, that too on just 8% of the available city land.
Land is the most expensive component in any real estate project. It is strange that despite various government authorities (such as BMC, MHADA, BPT, MMRDA, CIDCO, Defence and Railways) owning hundreds of hectares of precious land, none of them have ever built any housing -- whether for its officers or for its staff -- of standards comparable with a private developer! Instead, they have been sellng land to private developers, increasing corruption among bureaucrats.
Examples of Govt owned lands
• MTNL land at Worli — allowed to be encroached by slums, and now acquired by Ahuja group
• MMRDA land at Wadala Truck Terminal, sold to Lodha group
• Mantralaya / Bandra-MIG colony, PPP proposed with DB Realty
• MHADA land at Powai, Juhu, etc — underutilized and poorly constructed
• BPT / Railways land resources — lease terminated years ago, grossly underutilized.
CIDCO initially showed some promise when they built Vashi four decades ago. But they succumbed to easy option of selling their precious lands to private developers. The end result today is that they have created more criminals than good developers in Navi Mumbai.
The land shortage has resulted in spiralling and prohibitive pricing. Expanding families have no scope for buying additional space or upgrading their existing houses. The cost of some tiny slum houses in Mumbai is equivalent to 1BHK houses in smaller Indian cities.
To worsen matters, our infrastructure is many decades old and now unable to sustain the growing numbers of houses. Infrastructure is actually deteriorating as our local authorities are totally politicized.
The government has abundant land as well as sufficient money to build beautiful housing complexes for all the economic strata of its citizens. Many of our politicians, like Manohar Joshi, Raj Thackeray, Mangal Prabhat Lodha and Ganesh Naik, also have ample knowledge and experience of the construction industry.
What is lacking is only the political will!
Based on interview with Architect Nitin Killawala
Issued in public interest by