April 04, 2020
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Looming Menace On The Skyline

Looming Menace On The Skyline
There is often a price tag attached to symbols of pride. In the case of south Mumbai, it might turn out to be quite high. Fatal, in fact. But that has hardly deterred the Maharashtra government, which, it seems, is on an urbanising overdrive. India’s tallest skyscrapers are coming up in south Mumbai. And residents are anxious about their safety. The question that is uppermost on their minds these days is: what’s going to happen to other buildings located around them, in a quake-prone zone?

In a controversial move last week, the Maharashtra government cleared the construction of two 60-storey residential ‘twin’ towers in what is a notified seismic zone. The danger, according to the residents, has been compounded by the builders excavating a massive hill slope in the area. This is extremely dangerous because it loosens the earth and makes it more susceptible to damage in case of a temblor. The towers are to come up in Tardeo, which is close to Carmichael and Altamount Road—Mumbai’s most elite neighbourhoods. As the controversy snowballed last year, the government had ordered a stay on the Rs 400-crore project. But it has now been quietly lifted. Carmichael Road and Altamount Road residents, who have taken the builders to court, say the region has experienced several landslides in the past.

To make matters worse, the builders stand accused of excavating a massive 1.4 lakh tonnes of earth from Cumballa Hill. A geology professor from IIT Bombay, who surveyed the seismically active site, said the levelling of the hill could lead to a "calamity of catastrophic proportions". Panic-struck residents have been demanding that the hill slope be restored and the whole project abandoned. The developers, S.D. Corporation—a joint venture between the construction firm Shapoorji Pallonji and builder Dilip Thakker—have, however, denied all charges.

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