Mumbai highrises: SC asks Maharashtra to explain easing of green, traffic & fire norms

Relaxation of norms for the highrises in Mumbai has come under the scanner of the Supreme Court, which has asked the Maharashtra government and its municipal authorities to explain clearances to such buildings after compromising by-laws for green areas, traffic management and fire safety measures.

Underlining that the problems had become "acute and urgent" for the residents of Mumbai, a Bench of Justices G S Singhvi and H L Gokhale asked the state government and municipal bodies to file affidavits, clarifying whether it was permissible to allow construction by reducing the minimum recreational areas under the by-laws.

"The recreational areas and greens in the multi-storey buildings have to be scrupulously safeguarded. The principle of sustainable development which has been construed by this court as an integral part of Article 21 (right to life) of the Constitution deserves to be applied to town and urban planning throughout the country," it said.

The Bench also sought answers if a building could have an exemption from a rule mandating the height of the building had to be in proportion to width of the adjoining road, and if so to what extent. Concerned with the impact of highrise buildings in thickly populated areas on the traffic in Mumbai, it questioned whether any relaxation from this norm was "justified, valid and legal".

Nearly 50 real estate projects in Mumbai had been stalled for more than a year due to a February 2012 Union Environment Ministry guideline which stated that a building cannot go beyond seven floors or 60 metres in height if the road is less than 30 metres wide. The Maharashtra government had been rallying for a rollback of this decision, arguing that it will bring housing development to a standstill in Mumbai since the city mostly has narrow roads. The Union Environment Ministry finally decided to leave the decision to the discretion of local bodies and state governments, following the recommendation of a panel it had set up under Planning Commission member Dr K. Kasturirangan.

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