Coming down heavily on the changes in building rules decided by the Cabinet, Leader of the Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan has said it is intended only to help the real estate mafia.

Mr. Achuthanandan told a news conference in Thiruvananthapuram on Friday that the amendments to the building rules would have serious long-term consequences and should, therefore, be immediately withdrawn.

The government had brought in a provision permitting construction of multi-storeyed buildings even in small islands of rivers with ecologically sensitive mangrove forests.

One had to suspect that the rule changes were intended to grant permission to those projects that had been denied clearance by the last government, he said.

The Opposition Leader also alleged that the government had gone in for changes in the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) of buildings to facilitate corruption.

A building that could earlier have been built only on a four-cent plot could now be constructed on a one-cent plot on paying Rs. 3,000 as fee for every square metre. This amounted to permitting the builders to violate the law by making a payment.

The change in the definition of high rises was also serious.

Earlier, buildings of 15-metre height used to be categorised as high rises. Under the new rule, only buildings of more than 16-metre height are high-rise buildings and it mattered little how many floors were squeezed into the 16-metre height. This could well result in the height of each floor getting clipped and storeys getting added to the building.

Earlier, only buildings with area up to 12,000 square metre could be built near 6-metre wide roads. Now up to 18,000 square metre buildings could be built near such roads. The builders needed to leave five-metre open space only on two sides of such a building.

This could cause serious difficulties in the event of a major fire, as fire tenders would not be able to move to all sides of the buildings, he said.