Defence ministry relaxes ban on construction around defence lands, many families relieved

MUMBAI: The defence ministry has finally relaxed its construction ban around defence lands, bringing a huge relief to around 3,000 stranded families living in dilapidated buildings around the army’s Central ordnance depots in Kandivli and Malad. The ministry’s circular, dated October 21, 2016, comes three months after TOI frontpaged the plight of these families, unable to redevelop their buildings because the local military authority (LMA) refused to issue no-objection certificates (NOC).

As many as 43 ongoing redevelopment projects in this area were stalled and another 2,400 buildings were affected because of the defence objections. Builders whose projects fell within 500 metres of the depots had to seek clearance from the local military authority (LMA). Last week’s circular reduced the security barrier to just 10 metres for defence establishments and installations at 193 stations across the country, including the two depots in Kandivli and Malad.

“Any construction or repair activity within such a restricted zone of 10 metres will require prior NOC from LMA/defence establishments,” it said. Atul Bhatkalkar, BJP MLA from Kandivli, told TOI the defence ministry’s new guidelines show that henceforth no permissions will be required for building construction beyond 10 metres from the outer wall of the depot. “Defence minister Manohar Parrikar will now speak to the chief minister to direct the state urban development department to follow the new guidelines,” he said.

“This is a Diwali gift for over 12,000 homeless residents of Malad and Kandivli who have suffered since the past six years,” said a jubilant Krunal Goda who represents Central Ordnance Depot Sufferers Association (CODSA). “We hope that the chief minister issues a directive to enforce this circular to give relief to these stranded residents,” he said. CODSA said the immediate task would be to redevelop 32 buildings, which are in a bad shape. These buildings have around 1,500 residents who are part of the Kandivli Ashok Nagar Residents’ Association. A majority of them are senior citizens.

Goda, along with some residents, compiled a list of around 50 housing societies and 3,000 families who vacated their homes for redevelopment some years ago, but are stranded and without a roof because of the defence objection. Their buildings were demolished, but developers halted work and stopped paying rent to the dishoused families for alternative accommodation.

Builder Deepak Chheda of Rodium Realty said, “This is a historic decision, which has given a great relief not only to residents but also to builders, by putting an end to financial losses that have been mounting for six years. All the stalled projects can now commence. We want to give the residents their new homes at the earliest.”

Dhrupad Shah, a resident of Prem Bhavna society in Kandivli, said, “It’s a rebirth for all of us. I cannot believe that after six years we are now going to get our homes back.” Last August, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis had told TOI that a government resolution (GR) will soon be issued, lifting the virtual ban on redevelopment around the depots.

A defence establishment circular, in the wake of the infamous Adarsh housing society imbroglio, stipulated that the LMA issue a NOC for any construction near such land. Thousands of mainly lower middle-class families living in old buildings found themselves in a bind because the LMA refused to give permission for redevelopment.

Credits ET Realty

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