V. Geetanath

Aircraft crash brings forth illegal extra floors constructed and installation of cell phone towers

‘There are at least 1,000 buildings with an unauthorised extra fourth or fifth floor'

While every building in the area needs ‘NOC' from AAI, there have been deviations post-construction

HYDERABAD: The two-storied building which bore the impact of the Indian Navy plane in the Secunderabad Cantonment on Wednesday not only had a penthouse but also a cell phone tower atop, both of which were unauthorised.

The HJT-16 Kiran MK II aircraft, either due to some engine malfunction or pilot losing control, crashed into the concrete slab between second floor and the penthouse, the impact of which led to the collapse of the penthouse a little while later.

Initial reports of the plane hitting the cell tower before the crash proved to be incorrect. However, the mishap brings forth illegal extra floors constructed and installation of cell phone towers in Cantonment.

Cantonment's policy is to allow ground plus two floors only whereas in the funnel zone – aircraft path for landing or taking off – it is up to 15 metres from the ground-level. While every building coming up in the entire area needs a ‘no objection certificate' from the Airports Authority of India (AAI) before construction can begin, there have been deviations post-construction.

Official sources aver that there could be at least 1,000 buildings with an unauthorised extra fourth or fifth floor that have come up but these are outside the funnel zone. “Rasoolpura is a slum with hardly any high rise structure and the other side of Sanatnagar is outside our jurisdiction,” explained an official.

On Sanatnagar side, the AAI did not allow opening of the Fatehnagar flyover for a long time as it was directly on the funnel zone yet political pressures triumphed in the end. “A road under bridge could have been an ideal solution,” sighed a senior municipal official. He also admitted that quite a few illegal high rises and stacking of plastic drums at an unacceptable height are potential dangers.

In Cantonment, there has been a clamour for increasing the Floor Space Index (FSI) as well as a regularisation scheme for deviated structures. The AAI has already rejected another request for removing height restrictions in the funnel zone after the Shamshabad airport was opened, pointing out that the Begumpet airport has not been shut.

As for cell phone towers, the Secunderabad Cantonment Board (SCB) has written to all telecom companies to remove them (at least 40 towers) a year ago as they were installed without any permit. It wanted to emulate Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) which came out with a set of guidelines for their installation following a High Court direction when an apartment building with such a tower developed cracks.

But, not a single telecom firm bothered to respond while the SCB got busy with the general elections and forgot later. Incidentally, even the GHMC after much huffing and puffing has let sleeping dogs lie in this matter.