Darjeeling municipality starts demolishing illegal structures

Beginning on Tuesday, the Darjeeling municipality has started demolishing high rises flouting the building norms laid down in the Bengal Municipal Act, an issue that has been raised by Gorkha Janmukti Morcha president Bimal Gurung in the aftermath of the recent earthquake and landslides. The municipality staff and some workers started dismantling the two floors of an under construction building located between H.D. Lama Road and N.B. Singh Road in the heart of town. The particular building is jointly owned by four persons- Nausad Siddique, Md. Umar, Imran Hingun and Dawa Diki Sherpa. The owners had started fresh constructions after the original structure was completely destroyed in a devastating fire in 2011.
Darjeeling municipality starts demolishing illegal structures
Darjeeling municipality starts demolishing illegal structures
“We have started demolishing buildings that are flouting the B.M. Act. We are doing this after having served notices to the owners,” said Sukhbahadur Biswakarma, the municipality vice-chairman, who is overseeing the dismantling process.

On Monday, the GJM president had raised the issue of illegal high rises that were mushrooming in the hills and asked the municipality to demolish them. “Tourists come to the hills to enjoy the greenery and the beautiful environment. They have lots of buildings in their places and don’t want to see such structures here. The municipality should dismantle all illegal structures. I will see who objects,” he had said in a function in Darjeeling.

In fact, Gurung specifically pointed out to the two floors of the building that was started being dismantled on Tuesday. The GJM president, who will be leaving for Delhi on August 1, had even said that he himself would demolish the structure upon his return, if it was found that no steps had been taken by the municipality.

The municipality started a survey in all the wards in Darjeeling after the Nepal earthquake and the recent landslides that claimed 32 lives in the hills. “We started the survey of buildings that have been constructed above the permissible height of 11.5 meters in the hills. We had issued notices to the owners of the buildings but they did not respond or stop construction work. We had given permission for only 11.5 meters, which roughly translates to a ground floor and three floors above. That is why we have started demolishing the illegal structure,” Biswakarma said.

The civic body started the survey from June 9, focusing in the town areas and this will extend in all the 28 wards in Darjeeling. “So far we have issued 61 notices to owners of buildings that have been found violating building norms. At the moment I cannot segregate the notices but they pertain to violations such as illegal construction of additional floors and walls and encroachment among other factors. Our survey is still in progress and only after we complete it will we be able to provide the numbers,” said Prashant Rai, the municipal engineer.

When contacted for his comment, Umar said, “What can I say but let the law take its course. If it (building) is illegal then let them dismantle it.” The other owners, however, did not take calls with one of them (Siddique) saying he was in a meeting and could not talk at the moment.

Sources in the municipality said that so far, according to the survey, 18 buildings in and around town have been found to have flouted the permissible limit of 11.5 meters in the hilly region.

“The survey is in progress but we have already found several buildings that have violated the norms. However, the good thing is that some of owners that are building structures are themselves demolishing the illegal portions,” he said.

Source - EOI

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