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Constructive Changes

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After much debate, the modified Development Control Rules relating to construction and buildings in Mumbai have been implemented by the state government. These changes steered by chief minister Prithviraj Chavan aim to end corruption; but the provisions have left a divided community of builders, town-planners and architects.

Among the major changes is the curtailment of the municipal commissioner's power to regularise conversion of flower beds, voids, terraces and lily ponds into covered areas that become part of the apartment. Earlier, these were shown as part of the sanctioned plan but were not treated as FSI (floor space index)/FAR (floor area ratio) of the building. However, they were built in a manner that they could be later merged. Builders sold these areas as part of the project to unsuspecting consumers. The new rules allow residential and commercial projects to increase permissible area by 35 and 20 percent, respectively, provided a premium is paid.

The DC Rules (DCR 36) makes it incumbent on builders to provide more parking space in buildings by allowing three levels of basement parking.  Municipal commissioner Subodh Kumar's circular also makes it mandatory for the building proposal department to clear all construction plans within 60 days of application. With as many as 20 clearances required, this department had become a cesspool of corruption. Though the clearance-in-60-days provision is part of the Maharashtra Region and Town Planning Act (MRTPA), it has now been reiterated as municipal fiat. Kumar is hoping to limit graft and speed up construction. 


In a joint statement, Ajay Piramal and Adi Godrej said the new provisions will create a "transparent and objective approval system". The Maharashtra Chamber of Housing Industry (MCHI), which had earlier opposed some measures, has supported the modified changes. Paras Gundecha, president of the MCHI, says the new rules will create a level-playing field and reduce the scope for arbitrary decision-making. However, Shashi Kumar, head (real estate and investment advisory), Birla Sunlife AMC, says that plans that were sanctioned before the new rules came into effect on 6 January but are not in tune with the new provisions, would have to seek fresh approval. This will leave many projects in a limbo, he says.

Town planners such as P.K. Das fear that many provisions have been excessively watered down. For instance, the mandatory open space around buildings has been fixed at just 1.5 metres (5 feet) though the original recommendation was for 6 metres (20 feet). With high-rise buildings barely 10-15 feet apart, it will increase crowding. 

Despite such reservations, these changes are nonetheless a serious attempt to strengthen the rule book for an industry plagued by corruption.

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 06-02-2012)