Monday, July 24, 2017

Faced With Demolition, Mumbai Homeowners Prepare for Legal Battle

Seventy-four-year-old Ratnaprabha Joshi has been spending sleepless nights for a month now. Ever since she received a notice from the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) in June, informing her of an impending partial demolition of her building in 60 days’ time, the retired yoga teacher constantly fears she will lose her home.
Over 500 families living around Ratnaprabha’s Santacruz area, most of them senior citizens, could become homeless by the end of this month. Reason – a portion of their buildings are allegedly causing an obstacle for flights in landings and take offs from the Mumbai Airport.
Representatives of over 70 buildings around the Mumbai airport have received notices demanding they demolish anywhere between 1 to 6 metres of their respective buildings by the end of July. With some of these buildings over fifty-years-old, residents fear this would cause the entire structure to become unstable. What’s more, most of the old buildings constructed before 1978 have all the necessary clearances from the Airports Authority of India.
“We purchased our flat from a previous owner. The building is fifty-two-years-old. After we purchased the flat, we found out that this area is part of the official town planning scheme of the Govt. Thus, it was built by people who got together and invested their own funds in it. Since this house becomes their asset for life, all the required certifications – like the occupancy certificates, building completion certificates – are all in place. You must understand that this is where we have to finish our lives and pass on to our children. Therefore, we would not risk not having documents” said fifty-two-year-old Preeti Mehta, a teacher.
It all started after advocate Yashwant Shenoy filed a petition in the Bombay High Court in 2014 against buildings causing an obstacle for flights at the Mumbai airport. Following a reply filed by the Airports Authorities of India, MIAL and the DGCA, the High Court asked the DGCA for a detailed list of such buildings. The DGCA then submitted a list mentioning over 427 obstacles noted as per their survey in their reply in 2016. While a few of these buildings had received no NOC, most had allegedly flouted norms. According to petitioner Yashwant Shenoy, the NOCs issued after 2010 to most of the buildings were mostly fraudulent.
Backing Yashwant Shenoy’s claims, S Mangala, DGM (Aviation safety), WR, AAI, says she refused to sign NOCs for illegal heights for 11 sites very close to Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport's main runway in 2011.
24/07/17 Ankita Sinha/The Quint