Just 550m from Kesarbai building that collapsed on Tuesday is Padamsee Annex, one of the two privately owned buildings in B ward that have been declared extremely dilapidated by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). The civic body cut the electricity and water supply to this commercial building, which houses 40-odd shops, on July 6, as the last step to get the tenants to vacate the building. However, several shopkeepers continue to run their business from the premises, using battery-operated lights and table fans.
The Padamsee Annex case is reflective of the complexity of the issue of dilapidated buildings in Mumbai and underscores how they need holistic instead of knee-jerk solutions.
Meanwhile, the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (Mhada) on Thursday temporarily vacated three other buildings adjoining the collapsed Kesarbai-B building, for structural audit and repairs. The BMC’s B ward, on the other hand, sent 10 notices on Thursday and another 10 notices on Wednesday under the Mumbai Municipal Act, 1888 to buildings older than 30 years. The notices, sent as part of the survey to identify dilapidated buildings in the ward, asked the building owners to conduct structural audits.
A senior Mhada official said, “Residents of these buildings will not be displaced. As the buildings are adjoining Kesarbai building that collapsed, we are taking precautions. A structural audit will be conducted. The report will be ready by Tuesday. If needed, we will carry out repairs and allow tenants to move back.”
Reluctant to leave and doubtful of ever being able to move back in, 55 tenants of the three buildings, Iram, Kasai, and Havabai, that Mhada vacated on Thursday have decided to stay with relatives for a few days before exploring their options.
Mustafa Ismail, who lives on the ground floor of Iram building, said, “Mhada came and told us our buildings are shaky and we can’t live here right now. But they said they will tell us within a week if we can move back in.”
Vivek Rahi, assistant commissioner of B ward, said, “We scan the assessment department’s records for buildings older than 30 years and send notices asking them to conduct structural audits. Based on the reports, we decide further action.”
In 2019, BMC’s B ward has sent notices to 450 old buildings in the Dongri, Pydhonie, Bhendi Bazaar area. Of these, 70 replied with a structural audit report. “The audit reports show the buildings are not dilapidated. Some of them have carried out minor repairs. Replies from other buildings are awaited. We are continuing our action,” said Rahi.
The structural audits of two of the 450 buildings, including Padamsee Annex, found them to be extremely dilapidated. The BMC served a notice to Padamsee Annex, a commercial building on Sheriff Devji street, on May 29, seeking demolition within 30 days. When HT visited the building, it found at least a dozen shops were operating from there. A shopkeeper said, “The BMC is making a big deal about this. Our structural auditor has certified there is nothing wrong.” He refused to name the auditor.