The final count of illegal constructions in the city is out — 14,000.
The rampant violation of building rules was spotlighted when civic administrators began numbering buildings, both commercial and residential structures, for the new property tax regime. The numbering work was completed recently.
The maths says an area of over 15,000 sq ft must have been illegally added by way of unauthorised constructions. The violation was mostly in the form of extensions to existing structures. Cases of adding more floors on original structures without obtaining the mandatory permission from the local body were also identified, sources said.
But there is some hope in the offing for illegal buildings.
Amendments have been proposed recently to the Kerala Municipality Act for regularising the illegal structures constructed till December 2012. Going by the indications, the owners can get these structures legalised after paying a fine to avoid demolition. The fine amount will be known only when the State government presents the proposal in the Assembly. Going by the existing rules, the penal amount for regularisation is thrice the normal fee.
A revenue official said many of the building owners didn’t bother to get the structures approved by the civic authority. The violations went undetected as there were no periodic inspections on the existing structures. Only timely revision of property tax and spot assessments can expose violations, the official said.
The local body had earlier listed out around 150 large buildings in the city that had flouted building rules. The multi-storied buildings, which violated rules, included some of the leading textile retailers, corporate giants and speciality hospitals. By conservative calculation, the mega structures illegally added 50,000 sq ft, causing huge revenue loss to the corporation. While half of the building owners paid the fine slapped by Kochi Corporation and got their structures regularised, the rest went to court. A few cases were pending in the courts, an official said.
What the official spotted in terms of violation was big. Deputy Mayor B. Bhadra feels what lies undetected is even bigger. The assessments were made with the limited number of officials available with the civic body, she said. Random inspections were carried out by the administrators to avoid any dilution in the drive, she said.
An effective drive can be carried out in the city with a squad set up for the purpose. The civic body had been repeatedly raising the demand for a special squad with the government. We would approach the government once again, she said.