N.J. Nair

Drinking water, power crisis may worsen

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The slackness of the local bodies institutions in preparing new master plan has given rise to unrestricted building construction in violation of Kerala Municipal Building Rules and zoning regulations across the State.

Official sources told The Hindu that but for some rare exceptions, most of the civic bodies are not keen on drafting the master plan since it would deprive them of the powers to permit construction of commercial and residential buildings flouting the master plan and building rules. The powers to grant exemption are vested with the Corporations and municipal councils. There are complaints that in the absence of an approved master plan, the governing committees are giving exemptions in an arbitrary manner.

With the urban-rural divide fast dwindling, unplanned development in the main cities like Kochi as well as fast developing municipal towns would pave the way for drinking water and power crisis and collapse of the drainage system very soon.

The preparation of the master plan for cities, towns and panchayats is the primary responsibility of the Town and Country Planning Department. Being burdened with the task of clearing applications seeking plan exemptions, it could not earnestly take up its primary responsibility of preparing master plans for towns and cities. Staff shortage has also been cited as one of the main reasons for the failure of the department to work on the master plans.

Certain municipalities, including Pathanamthitta which drafted the plans, have also not forwarded it to the department for final clearance. The master plans drafted by the civic bodies have to get the clearance of the Town and Country Planning Department. The department would scrutinise the plans and ensure that they have been drawn up within the tenets of the Municipalities Act and building rules, sources said.

The case of Kochi Corporation is being cited as the best instance of laxity. The Corporation authorities had assured Chief Minister Oommen Chandy at a meeting held on December 7, 2004, that they would prepare a master plan within six months. Based on the assurance, the Chief Minister had lifted floor area ratio restrictions for six months. Though the time has elapsed, the new plan has not yet been submitted and the exemption is still in force. This has given way to unrestricted building construction.

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