Governments and municipalities across the world are waging a war against illegal constructions over a decade now. This has been a global phenomenon, crippling cities and compromising their logical growth.
Urban development is not just about high rise constructions but a painstaking planning. Open spaces and revised construction are a part of this planning and thus countries like India have been investing in demolitions as a planning tool.
However, illegal constructions continue to cripple roads, public spaces and other amenities. Successful urban planning in India will only have a future when it is complemented by efforts to educate the masses about its importance. Real estate buyers need to know how illegal constructions impact regional planning and development – and them personally.
More awareness would lead to greater due diligence at a consumer level. We have nation-wide campaigns about the evils of tobacco use – can such efforts not be put into creating greater awareness about this social evil?
It is tempting to say that education of developers is equally important; that if more real estate developers understood the deeper rationale of urban planning, they would be far less likely to violate municipal codes and standards. However, if we look at the problem of illegal construction in India, it is evident that the root cause is developers who just couldn’t care less.
Even where efforts are undertaken to publicly explain the desirability of planning, some developers will inevitably disregard the law purely for financial benefits. Illegal construction is done knowingly, simply to extract financial profits from the construction.
The main reason why illegal construction is so profitable to unscrupulous developers is that there is a population explosion which needs to be solved by housing. Where illegal constructions grow alongside legal constructions, urban areas soon become wastelands of mismanagement and pollution.
In fact, the rapid and uncontrolled growth of population has led million in this globe to opt for slums. In any developing city, it is not unusual to find anything between 30-60% of the population living in slums or otherwise unauthorized spaces. Since these constructions aren’t regularized, they don’t enjoy the amenities of piped water, storm drainage, sewers, roads, electricity, public transportation or healthcare.
Illegal constructions start with four walls and a ceiling, but soon take the form of high rise building, attracting more renters. They are often seen coming up in peripheral areas and even in premises of public utility like parks, near highways, streets, community centers, etc.
These buildings are constructed without the inputs of licensed engineers and architects. Failing any safety codes, these are also the first buildings to be affected by climatic upheavals. Also, legal constructions beside these buildings are at a risk, both physically and socially.
The Government of India has historically had a passive or even tolerant attitude towards such constructions. This has resulted in several problems in areas beset by illegal buildings, including:
- Absence of housing-related public services such as water and sanitation
- The haphazard distribution of such illegal structures makes it extremely costly for municipalities to provide water, sewage facilities and roads even if they are ‘regularized’
- The residents of such areas and buildings are not eligible for loans improve their homes or to expand business that they run from them, since banks will not accept illegal structures as collateral
- In the case of multi-level residential buildings, buyers can lose their entire investments – often their life savings -if the building is found to be illegal and demolished
It is only in the last decade or so that India’s state governments have been waking up to the hazards put forth by these illegal constructions. Some use demolition and others (unable to handle the pressure) regularize them in exchange of a fee.