The politics of construction: on violating building bylaws and land use rules

The Golden Kayarolam apartment at Maradu in Kochi

The Golden Kayarolam apartment at Maradu in Kochi   | Photo Credit: Thulasi Kakkat

Why are brazen violations of building bylaws and land use rules still allowed, asks Nidhi Adlakha

After four residential establishments — H2O Holy Faith, Alfa Serene, Golden Kayaloram and Jain Coral Cove — in Kochi’s Maradu Municipality were recently demolished due to gross violation of laws, it is now the turn of bungalows along Chennai’s coastline to go under the hammer, quite literally.

Late last month, the Madras High Court ordered the razing of a sprawling 16,218 sq.ft. bungalow on East Coast Road for violating Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms and flouting building regulations: it was constructed with just a planning permission obtained from the local panchayat.

Note to buyers
  • A seaside home is a dream but as a buyer, it is your responsibility to ensure that the property or land you are buying is legally clear. Look up CRZ and land usage rules for the area and check title documents. Consult local communities to check if the land has been encroached upon or if the building was constructed illegally. The best way to get such details is by interacting with former occupants (in case of a built structure), prior owners (of land) and with people living in the neighbourhood.

Turning a blind eye

Right on the seafront, the bungalow, being used as a guesthouse by a private automotive firm, is on the firing line along with several others in the vicinity. Orders were passed after Special Government Pleader E. Manoharan told the court (as reported in The Hindu) that the entire stretch, on which about six bungalows have been constructed illegally by different individuals, is a ‘no development zone’ since it is an inter tidal zone falling under CRZ-III.

The brazen violation of building bylaws, illegal land use (think Adarsh Society in Mumbai), and the flouting of CRZ norms continue unabated in India. After the Maradu demolitions, over 4,000 CRZ violations have been identified in the district (based on a report by 35 local bodies). In Mumbai, several buildings have been notified for lacking occupation certificates, and the most recent order puts bungalows along Alibaug’s beachfront under the scanner.

Closer home, we’ve seen how countless poorly planned homes and townships in Chennai suffered in the floods a few years ago — several had been constructed on ecologically sensitive areas such as the Pallikaranai marshland, Adyar creek and countless lakes in the city.

A snapshot of illegal settlements and a sea wall in Mumbai

A snapshot of illegal settlements and a sea wall in Mumbai   | Photo Credit: LYLA BAVADAM

All eyes on govt

After the 2015 floods, city-based anti-corruption NGO Arappor Iyakkam came out with an audit of Chennai’s waterways.

The two-part study involved a preliminary research carried out with maps from 1954, 1972 and 2016, and a social audit of specific areas such as Mugalivakkam, Villivakkam, Pallikaranai and Pallavaram.

The 40-page report states that GIS mapping of waterbodies (from 1954 to 2016) revealed the level of ‘indiscriminate destruction of waterbodies carried out in the name of development’. Over the last 50 years, many lakes like Villivakkam and Ambattur have shrunk more than 80% in size.

It is particularly interesting to note how the report mentions that the government was the major contributor to the destruction of waterbodies: the primary cause for the floods. ‘Governments have built on the Villivakkam Lake — pumping stations built by Metrowater; and the lake is covered with debris from Metro Rail’.

Released last month, the Ministry of Environment and Forest’s CRZ 2019 notification allows opening up coastlines for construction and tourism activities. Environmental experts, fisherfolk and activists have pointed out that the reduction in No Development Zones (NDZ) will adversely impact coastlines.

While it may be good news for builders eyeing tourism-related development and for the tourism sector in general, what does such a notification hold for the environment?

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Printable version | May 25, 2020 2:54:37 PM |

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