Mumbai: Vision Crest residents oppose BMC’s nod for 12 flats in refuge area

July 24, 2022
Mumbai: Vision Crest residents oppose BMC's nod for 12 flats in refuge area

MUMBAI: Residents of a 36-storey tower in Dadar (west) have complained against their builder, accusing him of constructing flats in the refuge area of their building.

Former MLC Kiran Pawaskar, a resident of the building, has complained that 12 flats are being constructed on four refuge floors of Vision Crest building located on DS Babrekar Marg. There are 32 families who live in the building.

Following the complaints by Pawaskar and local MLA Sada Sarvankar, BMC has issued a ‘stop work’ notice to the builder, but officials said that BMC’s Building Proposal (BP) department had issued permission for the construction of the flats in the refuge area to the builder after Coastal Regulation Zone norms restricting construction activity were relaxed near bay areas. Officials said the builder availed of additional FSI, which is being used for construction of flats in the refuge areas.

Officials said the plot could be developed with a much higher FSI as the Mahim coast was declared a bay in 2014 by the state coastal authority, after the Centre’s 2011 notification, amending CRZ norms.

In 2011, the Union environment ministry amended CRZ rules, stating that seafronts would continue to get the same protection, but construction restriction at bays would be reduced from 500 metres to just 100 metres.

Pawaksar has also moved Bombay High Court (HC) over the construction of flats in the refugee area. “This is a 36-storey high-rise and flats are being constructed on four refuge floors — 13, 19, 25 and 31. BMC has given them permissions saying that since CRZ norms were reduced, additional FSI of 0.5 was generated. But the building got an Occupation Certificate in 2011. As per the original plan, the four floors were designated as ‘refuge areas’ and now they are constructing 12 flats on the four refuge areas. This will lead to a fire hazard since the building has only one staircase which is also 1.5 metres. After we complained, BMC issued a ‘stop work’ notice and the HC has also asked for status quo till the matter is decided,” Pawaskar said.

Sarvankar complained to the fire brigade that allowing flats in refuge areas would be dangerous in case a fire breaks out. “There is construction going on in the refuge areas. From a fire safety point of view, this is very dangerous. This kind of construction has not taken place in any high-rise building in Mumbai.

BMC’s BP department has also issued a ‘stop work’ [notice] to this work. It is requested that you also issue a ‘stop work’ to this construction. If this is not done, this pattern will be started in all other high-rises in south Mumbai and this would risk the life and safety of residents,” Sarvankar said in his complaint to the Chief Fire Officer.

BMC officials said they had consulted their law department on this and only then were permissions given.

BMC rules stipulate that a refuge area will have to be provided at every seventh habitable floor after the first 24 metres of the high-rise building. “The refuge area shall be provided within the building line at floor level. In case of high-rise buildings having height more than 30 m, the first refuge area shall be provided at 24 m or first habitable floor, whichever is higher. Thereafter, the refuge area shall be provided at every 7th habitable floor,” the rules state.

The guidelines said that a refuge area will now be restricted to just 4% of the habitable floor area it serves, and will be free of floor space index or FSI- the ratio of permissible built up area vis-a-vis the plot size. If it exceeds 4%, the excess area shall be counted in the FSI,” the rules state.

Pawaskar said that since the building got an OC in 2011, making changes in the plan now is illegal. “Even if the builder has got additional FSI, such drastic changes like eating away the refuge areas can’t be made after getting the OC. If this kind of blatant violation of safety norms are allowed, refuge areas will be eaten up in all high-rises where more FSI has been generated. It is a matter of the life safety of residents,” Pawaskar said.

Ramakant Jadhav of West Avenue Realtors, the builder of the project, said he would not offer any comment since the matter is sub-judice.

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