x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Construction crisis shakes India

India Dispatch: Many old and new properties in Mumbai are at risk of falling down, as a series of deadly building collapses has brought inferior construction standards used by some unscrupulous developers into sharp focus.

Mumbai has been hit by a spate of building collapses, raising the spectre of poor construction. Indranil Mukherjee / AFP
Mumbai has been hit by a spate of building collapses, raising the spectre of poor construction. Indranil Mukherjee / AFP

MUMBAI // Many properties both old and new in Mumbai are at risk of falling down, as a series of deadly building collapses has brought inferior construction standards used by some unscrupulous developers into sharp focus.

A four-storey building collapsed in Dahisar, a suburb of Mumbai, on Saturday, causing several injuries and deaths.

At least 10 people were killed the day before when a residential building caved in nearby in Thane, on the outskirts of the financial capital.

Two weeks ago, a building collapsed in Mahim, central Mumbai, killing 10 people. The monsoon rains, which arrived this month, are thought to have contributed to weakening poor quality structures.

"Many of the older buildings in Mumbai and its surroundings were constructed along inadequate quality parameters and should have been redeveloped long ago," said Anurag Mathur, the chief executive of projects and development services at Jones Lang LaSalle India. "However, it is not only old buildings which are in danger of collapse. Many of the newer constructions have been built on a cookie-cutter basis with a view to maximising profitability. This is especially true in the case of some of the budget housing projects in which seemingly every possible financial corner has been cut."

In one of India's worst incidents, more than 70 people were killed in April and many others were injured when an apartment building collapsed in Thane.

"In light of the recent building collapses, the need for quality construction materials and techniques has once again been brought to the forefront," said Mr Mathur.

"Apart from using better construction materials and more modern construction techniques, developers need to factor in Mumbai's climatic conditions, which involve high levels of salinity and dampness. Structural audits need to be performed on older buildings."

Yashwant Dalal, the president of the Estate Agents' Association of India, said that there was a huge problem with illegal construction in Mumbai.

"A lot of construction in Mumbai is unauthorised, where BMC [the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai] has declared 15,000 buildings unauthorised," said Mr Dalal.

He said that plans for a new regulatory authority in India for the residential property sector, approved by the Union Cabinet this month, could help to reduce illegal construction.

"In India, the rules and regulations are not hard and fast," he said. "The law is there is but nobody is bound by any regulations. So under these circumstances some builders have cheated people."

Mumbai, where land available for development is extremely scarce, has experienced a 66 per cent increase in home prices over four years, according to Jones Lang LaSalle. As the financial capital, it continues to attract migrants from all over the country looking for work opportunities.

Mumbai has an ever-growing population of more than 20 million. Its rapid development and urbanisation, along with widespread corruption, has resulted in properties often being built to low standards. With property prices sky-high and limited options available, poorer citizens often have little option but to live in low-quality, illegally built homes. Sunil Mishra, the chief executive of Karvy Private Wealth, said there was a clear divide between quality properties in Mumbai and the substandard buildings.

"There are two different worlds," said Mr Mishra. "The buildings which fall belong in a different segment. These are illegal buildings. These are small, shanty sorts of buildings. The ones that NRIs [non-resident Indians] are investing in are more branded developers."

 

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