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Another Adarsh in the making?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011
By Neel Shah

If Ashok Rao, president of the Federation of Churchgate Residents (FCR) is to be believed, then the builders of Vasant Sagar, an under-construction building at Marine Drive, have violated around 41 government norms, including that of MCZMA, MoEF among several others.

The Brihnamumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had also issued stop-work notice on December 21, 2010 under Section 354A of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act, directing the owners to immediately stop the construction of the building.

Pujit Aggarwal, the MD and CEO of Orbit Corporation, constructors of Vasant Sagar, said, “The BMC has already revoked the stop-work notice last week, and the allegations by the FCR are baseless. Not a single government norm or rule has been violated and construction work on the site has been started.”

In the meanwhile, new BMC Chief Subodh Kumar said, “If the notice has been revoked before me taking charge, then I am not aware of it.”

“In the rush to erect a multi-storey state-of-the-art building, the developers failed to obtain several mandatory clearances needed for construction in a coastal zone area, like that of Marine Drive,” asserted Rao, who had gathered all the relevant information by filing an RTI query.

In addition, it is learnt that Orbit Corporation quite blatantly constructed the building contrary to the plans approved by the competent authority and thus violated the terms and conditions sanctioned under the IOD (Intimation of Disapproval) and Commencement Certificate (CC).

Violations of the approved plans

As per applicable regulations, all residential buildings in the Marine Drive precinct have a height restriction of 70 ft and thus a building cannot exceed 6 to 7 floors.

The owners submitted a plan showing that a basement, stilt floor for parking, five floors of residential apartments plus a terrace (of total height up to 21.35 meters) would be built, which is allowable as per the law. The plans were duly approved by the BMC, MCZMA and other agencies involved, as there were no violations.
“However, later on, the builders made the ground floor of height 5.8 meters (20 ft), which was in complete contrast to the approved plans that allowed a ground floor height of 3.4 meters (10 ft),” informed Rao.

The notice issued by the BMC (a copy of which is with ADC) states, the constructed stilt height is 5.8 meters as against the approved 3.30 meters and the basement height is 4.50 meters against the approved 3 meters.

Building constructed on amended plans “Further, the first and second floors were constructed as parking floors instead of residential floors as previously approved in the plans,” added Rao. FCR states that Orbit Corporation had permission to build six storeys but has applied for permission to build a 14-storeyed building. This application is however pending with the BMC.

Significantly, the builder had submitted amended plans of the building, which comprise of basement, stilt (height 5.80 meters), three parking floors and 4th to 13th floors to a total height of 62.30 meters, stated BMC in its report.

If Orbit Corporation is going to develop a 14-storeyed building, then the plans would have to get approved by the MCZMA and the MoEF. This is particularly needed when a building has a height more than 24 meters and the construction cost exceeds Rs.5 crore. “The builder got the permission cleared from MCZMA by submitting the initial proposal, which is below both of these criteria,” said Rao.

On the other hand, the builder did not obtain an NOC from the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee (MHCC), which is mandatory, as the building is situated in the Marine Drive Heritage precinct and listed as grade III building. “A multi-storeyed structure at this location would spoil the area’s splendor,” said an officer of MHCC.

If the violations are confirmed, Vasant Sagar becomes another scam along the lines of the Adarsh building controversy, which faces prospects of it being completely razed down. The Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh, on Sunday, after concluding that the Adarsh Housing Society lacked permission of the competent authority under the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notification, had ordered its demolition.

In mid-2000, a proposal to construct a 14-storeyed building inside the city police headquarter at Crawford Market was rejected by the MHCC. The reason cited was its proximity to CST station, a landmark which has acquired the status of a world heritage monument, since the new building would mar the view of the station.
The committee had then advised the police department to rework the proposal, suggesting that constructing a few low-rise buildings in consonance with other nearby heritage sites is a more feasible option.


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