RESSEX™ is Real Estate Sensitivity Index

RESSEX™ is Real Estate Sensitivity Index

Pulse of Real Estate Market

1-acre Mazgaon plot goes for 110 crore

Rajshri Mehta

Mumbai: The Aga Khan Foundation has purchased one-acre land, owned by Philips Electronics, in Mazgaon for Rs 110 crore. Philips, a leading Dutch multinational, has also sold another two acres at Koregaon Park in Pune to a developer for apsproximately Rs 75 crore. Both this land parcels have a development potential of approximately 2.5 lakh sq ft.
The Mazgaon plot, which has a development potential of about 80,000 sq ft, was used by Philips to house its more than 70 employees in three seven-storey towers till last year. Diamond Jubilee school, run by the Aga Khan Foundation, is located adjacent to this plot. The Aga Khan Foundation, run by one of the richest royals in the world, plans to use the land to expand amenities and facilities in the school or set up a hospital.
A source said that a formal agreement will be inked after Philips, according to rules, pays unearned income of up to 50% of the sale price for the land that it had originally leased from the state government 30 years ago. Following the collector’s nod, the new lessee’s name will be entered in the property card. Spokespersons of Philips and Aga Khan Foundation refused to comment. 6-storey Goregaon tower up for sale S tandard Chartered has put its over 7,000 sq m office block in Goregaon for sale. The six-storey Standard Chartered Tower was purchased by the bank five years ago fromK Raheja Titanium for Rs 325 crore. The bank is hoping to realize Rs 300 crore. The property houses back office operations of StanChart’s consumer banking division and support staff. The bank’s five-storey residential building, Grindlays Court, in Bandra (W) is also up for sale. Admeasuring 10,700 sq ft, the bank expects Rs 40 crore for the property that has a development potential of 22,000 sq ft.

Omkar-L&T Realty project gets funding from Indostar Capital

Madhurima Nandy

Redevelopment project called Crescent Bay, is a joint venture between the two firms and was launched recently

A premium residential project of Omkar Realtors and Developers Pvt. Ltd and L&T Realty Ltd has received Rs.300 crore in funding from Indostar Capital Finance Pvt. Ltd, a non-banking financial company, said two people familiar with the development.
The 17-acre, redevelopment project in central Mumbai’s Parel area, called Crescent Bay, is a joint venture between the two firms and was launched recently. It has two-, three- and four-bedroom apartments.
“This is a debt deal in the form of NCDs (non-convertible debentures),” Gaurav Gupta, director, Omkar Realtors, said in an emailed response.
A spokesperson of Indostar Capital declined to comment.
NBFCs are fast gaining leverage as lenders of choice in the real estate sector, and typically offer debt finance to developers.
Like private equity (PE) funds, NBFCs have become a critical part of the funding network in real estate, and are closely competing with the former, which are also doing similarly structured debt deals these days.
While banks lend to real estate firms at interest rates of 13-14%, NBFCs charge 21-22% and PE firms seek returns of 25-28%.
Indostar Capital offers loans against residential and office space projects. It also lends for acquisitions and buyouts as well as secured corporate lending for capital expenditure or working capital.
Mumbai-based Omkar Realtors specializes in redevelopment projects and has raised substantial capital from PE firms such as Indiareit Fund Advisors Ltd and Red Fort Capital Advisors Ltd in the past for their projects.
L&T Realty is developing both residential and office space projects in Mumbai, Chandigarh and Chennai.
“The Parel project has sold quite some stock through pre-sales and so, the receivables are healthy. That should make it comfortable for the developers to service the loan,” said one of the two people mentioned above, who didn’t want to be identified.
Analysts said large and mid-size developers are looking to raise money to pare debt, buy land or finance the construction of their projects by selling NCDs to wealthy individuals and institutions.
Many NBFCs are also offering relatively larger loans now, compared to the standard Rs.50-100 crore loan sizes prevalent even a year ago. This is relevant during a time when PE funds are cutting deal sizes and adopting debt-structured deals similar to NBFCs.
“While NBFC lending will continue to remain robust this year, how much they lend would depend on their capitalization (of NBFCs). With a number of NBFCs wanting bank licences, their individual book sizes have become very large,” said Ambar Maheshwari, managing director, corporate finance, at property advisory Jones Lang LaSalle India.

Sky is the limit in Mumbai

Sudhir Suryawanshi  

High-rises line up to kiss the city sky as 141 proposals cleared in 2-and-half years.

If you thought the city skyline had no space for any more skyscrapers, it’s time you changed your notion. And here’s why: The high-rise technical committee of the state government has so far cleared 330 projects since 2004, including the 141 which saw the light of day in the past two and a half years.

Buildings that are 70 meters in height or have at least 23 floors fall under the category of a high-rise, as was decided by the state government when it formed the committee to scrutinise and subsequently approve the proposals without delay. Since the formation of the committee almost nine years back, the state received 441 proposals.

Among these, the first committee (2004-2007) had approved 56 projects out of the 87 proposals it received and the second (2007-10) had given its nod to 133 against 161 submitted. The third committee (2010-2013) has cleared 141 projects out of the 193 proposals it scrutinised so far. This is the highest number of cleared proposals by any committee within its stipulated time of three years.

A committee member said when a proposal is submitted with all necessary documents, it is approved within 90 days. “There have been some high-rise proposals which were cleared within a month. Proposals get stuck or delayed only because of non-compliance of required documents and reports,” he clarified.

Although such developments will certainly draw flak from environmentalists, senior architect Hafeez Contractor has this to say: “By constructing high-rise buildings, we can create more open space, gardens and give a better view to each resident. In Mumbai, sea-view plays a major role while buying a flat. As a result, more developers are going for high-rises to get a proper view of the sea,” he said.

Paras Gundecha, managing director at Gundecha Builder, could not agree less.

He said the skyline of each metro or international city changes from time to time. “A city has to evolve as per the demand of its people. Its changes reflect in architectural designs.

People’s life-style has changed. Besides better view and ventilation, they also want swimming pools, tennis courts, gardens and ample parking space. These facilities cannot be given if a single plot is developed. Therefore, developers are clubbing together plots to incorporate all such amenities,” said Gundecha.

A senior member of the high-rise technical committee, Rakesh Kumar, said they are quite proactive in approving projects if all the documents are in place. “We emphasise on developers keeping the roads and pavements wide while working on their projects. Most of the accidents happen due to congested roads and pedestrian walkways. Therefore, we focus on small but necessary things,” said Kumar.

City builder held for cheating Delhi investors of 25 crore

Dwaipayan Ghosh

Promises Residential Plots In Karjat, Sells Land And Flees

The economic offences wing of the Mumbai police has arrested a chef turned-builder, who allegedly cheated several investors in the National Capital Region (NCR) of around Rs 25 crore by promising them residen tial plots in Karjat.
The EOW claimed that Ashley Noel Concessio (42) launched a residential plots project, Pragati Valley, in Karjat through Pragati Land & Housing Corporation in 2005.
As he got a poor response in Mumbai, Concessio launched the project in NCR.
“In the present case, corporate bookings were made from a group of employees of IFFCO for the project. With the second international airport proposal in Navi Mumbai, the nearby areas, too, saw a realty boom with several builders pre-launching their projects,’’ said joint commissioner of police, EOW, Sandeep Goel. With the help of marketing agents in Delhi, Concessio sold around 5,000 plots and collected about Rs 25 crore from investors in NCR.
More than 400 complaints were filed against the builder in Mumbai, Raigad and Delhi; five cases were also registered against him at the Karjat police station.
“Concessio said he bought agricultural land in and around Karjat in Raigad district for the project. But when the Maharashtra government did not give him the necessary approvals for change of land use and for the project, he sold the land and fled,” said Goel.
The EOW arrested him on June 3 from his Andheri office. A class XII dropout, Concessio lives in Bandra. In 1992-94, he worked as a chef in Kuwait. Later he returned to Mumbai and marketing products such as soaps. In 2005, he launched his firm Pragati Land & Housing Corporation.

BMC ignores HC order to turn private road public

Chaitanya Marpakwar

Civic body demolishes Goregaon society’s gates, residents blame pressure from builders

While turning a blind eye to hundreds of unauthorised structures sprawled all over the city, in a bizarre action, BMC demolished the main gates of Satellite Garden society in Goregaon (East) on Monday. The corporation wants the society to throw open the gates for general public.
BMC officials from P-South Ward claimed a road inside the society was a public road and the society needed to throw open its gates so that people from another society behind it could access the main road.
The livid residents, however, claimed the BMC move was a clear violation of a Bombay High Court order issued in April 2013. They alleged BMC was working under pressure from the developers, who just wanted to get direct access to the General AK Vaidya Marg, or Film City Road, from their society.
“They currently have access from another road but they want to cut the distance short. That’s the reason they want to use this road, which is just nearly 150 meters,” said Deepjoy Dutta, a resident. Society members currently use a 15-feet wide strip of land to park vehicles and to access different wings.
“When we got the Occupation Certificate (OC) from the developer in 2002, the plot plan clearly showed that the road was internal. The plot behind our society has been developed recently and now the developers want to convert an internal road to a public road to improve their sales,” said Vinod Shukla, chairman of the society.
Developed in 2002, the complex is spread over 16,000 sq meters with seven wings, and houses nearly 200 families. “The society had even fought a case against the developer, Satellite Developers, over conveyance.  In an order favouring the society, the High Court had upheld the 2002 plan, on the basis of which the OC was issued. The court had even stated that no new construction could come up on the plot. How can the BMC now claim that the road is public property?” rued Shukla.
Later, the society members met Municipal Commissioner Sitaram Kunte in this regard, who assured them of a probe into the matter.
The residents are also contemplating moving a contempt petition against BMC for violating the HC order. “They have broken the gates without hearing us out. What kind of an administration is this? We will move a contempt petition. The BMC has violated a court order in favour of some developers. Otherwise, why would they do this in such a hurry?” asked Shivnath Puri, Secretary of the society.
“The court order clearly prevents anyone from creating any third party rights over the plot. BMC cannot ask us to give up our road. With the gates broken, it has become a safety hazard. Anyone can just walk into the society,” Puri added.
Meanwhile, the BMC officials said the matter has been referred to the corporation’s legal department.
“It is true that the gates have been demolished. Residents showed us a High Court order and we have referred the matter to our legal department. They will give us an opinion and then we will proceed further,” said Vijay Balamwar, Deputy Municipal Commissioner, Zone 4.
Unmesh Merchant of the Satellite Developers, which developed the Satellite Gardens society, could not be contacted for comment.


BMC officials claimed that a road inside the society was a public road. The society’s front gates were demolished so that the road — which ends at its rear gate (R) can allow people from another society behind it to access the main road

Developer razes five homes without heritage committee permission

Yogesh Sadhwani

Builder could lose redevelopment rights after it emerged that he didn’t disclose colony’s heritage status

The Willingdon Colony redevelopment controversy took a turn for the worse on Thursday, when several residents clashed with the developer’s staff, and stood in front of the bulldozers to prevent demolition of some cottages.
The developer, Sumer Group, armed with permission from the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA), managed to tear down five cottages, before the residents forced suspension of the demolition.
The Santacruz-based society, spread over 5.5 acres, has been in news for the past four years, ever since the Sumer Group bought the land from the Bombay Catholic Co-operative Society. A group of residents was against the takeover, but in March this year, the SC ruled in favour of redevelopment.
Around 8 am Thursday, the residents were shocked to see bulldozers, excavators, cranes and trucks entering the society premises. Their worst fears were confirmed when the demolition squad started tearing down bungalow numbers 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12. When residents confronted the builder’s staff, saying the cottages could not be demolished without the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee’s consent, they were shown the SRA permissions.
A resident said, “We told them the entire colony has been included as a ‘precinct’ in the proposed list of heritage sites. When we started clicking pictures of the demolition, the builder’s men attacked us.” The residents got no relief even when police arrived on the scene. An officer from Santacruz Police Station said, “The developer had permissions from the SRA to demolish vacant cottages, and we ensured there was no interference.”
Around 1 pm, the SRA issued fresh orders suspending the demolition, after the residents approached the SRA chief, the municipal commissioner, and the chairman of the heritage committee, which has already questioned the redevelopment, wondering how it was sanctioned by the SRA when there is not a single slum on the premises.
Blaming the developer for “not informing” them about the colony being included in the proposed list of heritage sites, the SRA officials said the heritage committee will now take a call on the redevelopment. Deputy chief engineer, SRA, Shantilal Tank said, “We notified the developer that as per the directions received from the municipal commissioner, they should stop demolition till further notice.”
The 23-cottage colony, constructed in 1917, had 69 tenants at one point of time. It is at present occupied by around 20 families, residing in 13 cottages, while the rest have surrendered their rights to the Sumer Group. It has now emerged that even before the Supreme Court ruled in favour of redevelopment, the developer had obtained SRA clearances (in December last year) to redevelop the property.
The heritage committee, during one of its meetings, expressed concern as to how the SRA allowed redevelopment without consulting it, as the rules clearly say that any building or a cluster of houses featured in the proposed heritage list cannot be redeveloped without the committee’s approval.
The heritage committee chairman, V Ranganathan said, “The SRA has suspended the demolition, and we will now decide on the matter after checking the documents and permissions.”
The deputy municipal architect (development plan) wrote to the SRA recently on behalf of the heritage committee, demanding to know on what grounds the permission to redevelop the colony was issued.
The developer insists he hasn’t flouted any rules. A Sumer Group spokesperson said, “The Supreme Court and the Bombay High Court both have granted us permission to go ahead with the redevelopment. The development plan remarks from BMC don’t reflect that our property comes under the heritage list, either in Grades 1, 2, 3, or in the precinct. Further, as highlighted in the Supreme Court order, the tenants opposing the project were instigated by a rival developer.”

SRA PERMISSION UNDER HERITAGE COMMITTEE SCANNER

The redevelopment permission granted by the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) to the Sumer Group has come under the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee scanner. Sources said the developer proposed that he would use a portion of the 5.5 acre plot to create permanent transit camp, which would be handed over to the SRA. The transit camp would be spread over three buildings, and would have 530 houses of 225 sq ft each. In return, the SRA sanctioned greater floor space index (FSI) to the tune of 1.75. “Had the developer obtained clearances from BMC, he would have got FSI of only 1.33,” sources said.


One of the cottages at the Willingdon Colony in Santacruz being razed on Thursday morning. The demolition was suspended following protests from the residents

Realty firm alleges fraud, police hunt for developer

Megha Sood

BASED on reports by experts in forgery cases, Mahim police are tracing Jitendra Jain, a developer in the western suburbs who, as per a complaint by Vighnaharta Builders, allegedly duped several flat buyers by posing as director of the company.

Vighnaharta Builders had registered a police complaint three months ago that Jain, director of Kamla Landmarc Construction, had duped several people by selling flats at a major project they had begun in central Mumbai.

To lend credibility to his claims, Jain had allegedly forged various documents, including the letterhead of Vighnaharta Builders and duped prospective flat buyers of crores of rupees. “The forgery has been corroborated by experts. A case report has been submitted to the Zonal DCP,” said senior inspector Dashrath Patil.

Police said Jain was aware that Vighnaharta Builders were on the verge of completing legal formalities before starting the project in central Mumbai. Jain allegedly announced the pre-launch booking of the flats at a rate cheaper than actual rates in the area.

“A statement made by Vignaharta Builders says the cheaper rates attracted prospective flat buyers, mostly rich investors, who immediately booked some flats in the two saleable towers that are supposed to be constructed,” said investigating officer Ritesh Aher.

Jain posted the details of the redevelopment project on the website of Kamla Landmarc Construction, naming the project ‘Trident’. “Santosh Mane, director of Vighnaharta Builders, saw the website and approached police,” said Aher.

Jain told Newsline, “I’m totally unaware of any such complaint filed against me.”

When asked about the delay in arresting Jain, DCP (Zone 5) Dhananjay Kulkarni said, “The investigation is in progress.”

Govt gives you shelter from realtor, broker

Ashutosh Kumar  

Real Estate Bill approved; it will protect consumer interest, set up regulator.

In a move that will bring cheer to hundreds of home buyers, the Union cabinet cleared the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Bill 2013, which will protect consumer interests and also set up a regulator.

The bill, cleared at the cabinet meet on Tuesday evening with minimal debate, also mandates the registration of all real estate projects and brokers who “intend to see any immovable property with the (proposed) real estate authority”. The bill, pending since 2009, will be placed in Parliament in the upcoming monsoon session.

Piloted by Union minister for housing and poverty alleviation Ajay Maken, the bill incorporates “punitive measures”, which include de-registration of the project and penalties “in case of contravention of the provisions of the bill”. The proposed real estate regulator, or a real estate appellate tribunal, will be empowered to impose the punitive measures in case a promoter defaults on any of the deliverables promised by them while selling a
dwelling unit or a project.

The bill aims to streamline the real estate sector and make it more accountable by making it mandatory for promoters to disclose project details, such as layout, plan of development works, carpet area, the number of apartments booked, and the status of the statutory approvals received by them. The promoter will have to disclose names and addresses of real estate agents, contractors, architects, and structural engineers to bring greater transparency to all realty projects and protect buyers’ interests.

“This is a step in the right direction. It is very positive for our clients and also for professional real estate developers,” said Anil Kumar, joint managing director and chief executive officer, Ansal Properties and Infrastructure.

A major component of the bill is to create a mechanism that will ensure speedy resolution of disputes “through adjudicating officers” who will be appointed by the real estate authority. This will ensure that home buyers can quickly seek justice in case promoters try to cheat them or deny them services they had promised earlier while selling a real estate project.

The bill also mandates that 70% of the sales from a project be committed only to the completion of that project, and the money is not diverted to other projects. This will be deposited in a separate account to be maintained in a scheduled bank “within a period of 15 days of realisation”.

The bill also ensures that real estate agents are banned from selling housing projects that are not registered with the real estate authority. They will now be obligated to maintain and preserve books of accounts, records, documents, and will also have to give an undertaking that they will not be involved in any unfair practice. They will also have an obligation to “facilitate the possession of documents to allottees as entitled at the time of booking and to comply with such other functions as specified”.

The bill proposes

  • Punitive steps to include de-registration of project.
  • Projects/agents to mandatorily register with the authority.
  • Setting up of a real estate authority.
  • Real Estate Appellate Tribunal too gets nod for speedy settlement.
  • Retired/sitting judge of HC to head tribunal.
  • Obligations of agents defined.
  • Builder to commit 70% of booking amount for construction of project.
  • Mandatory disclosure of all project details.

Willingdon Colony redevelopment runs into trouble, again

Yogesh Sadhwani

The heritage panel has asked how the builder got permission from SRA to redevelop a posh Santacruz colony without any slums or shanties

Two months after the Supreme Court cleared the decks for redevelopment of the 5.5 acre Willingdon Colony- also known as Bombay Catholic Colony – in Santacruz, the project has run into trouble yet again. The Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee (MHCC) is looking askance at the project, wondering how it was sanctioned by the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) when there is not a single slum on the premises.
The colony consists of 23 cottages and does not contain slums; despite this, the developers obtained clearances from SRA for razing old structures and constructing new ones.
The colony which at one point of time had 69 tenants has been in news for the past three years ever since the Sumer Group bought the land from the Bombay Catholic Co-operative Society, the old owners.
A group of residents was against the takeover and approached various courts to stall any redevelopment. However, in March this year the Supreme Court ruled in favour of redevelopment. But the issue of who should sanction the redevelopment, and whether it required a nod from the heritage body, were not part of the SC case.
Even before the SC had ruled in favour of the developer, the Sumer Group had approached the SRA and obtained clearances in December 2012 to redevelop the property. Around the time that the SC gave its ruling, MHCC learnt about the SRA clearances and discussed the issue at two meetings on March 2 and 22. “The colony has been included as a ‘Precinct’ in the proposed list of heritage sites…The issue was discussed in MHCC meetings dated 2/3 and 22/3,” states a letter shot off by the deputy municipal architect (development plan) on behalf of MHCC to SRA.
At one of the meetings, MHCC members expressed concern over how the SRA had cleared the project without consulting it. Going by the rules, if a particular building or cluster of houses is featured in the proposed heritage list, sanctions cannot be given without the approval of the MHCC.
Moreover, MHCC also expressed concern at how the SRA could grant sanctions for redevelopment of a colony which had no slums at all. “It was observed that the colony comprises of cottage like structures and the Committee failed to understand how such a complex was considered for development under a SRA scheme,” states the above-mentioned letter. MHCC has sought an explanation from SRA.
Officials at SRA were tight-lipped but said they would respond to MHCC. A spokesperson for the Sumer group said: “The honourable Supreme court and the Bombay High court has granted us permission to go ahead with the redevelopment and also highlighted that the tenants opposing the project were fueled by rival developer. We have all approvals from the requisite planning authority.”
The redevelopment of Willingdon Colony was first mooted in 1966 by the original owners of the 5.5-acre society. Subsequently it got mired in at least two dozen litigations. The scenic colony, then owned by the Bombay Catholic Co-operative Society, was surrounded with lush green gardens.
In1966,the society proposed that the colony be redeveloped to create buildings to accommodate more tenants. A resolution was accordingly passed in September 1966, and it was decided to construct 230 tenements, of which 69 would be allotted to the existing tenants.
Allottees for the remaining tenements were shortlisted, and each asked to deposit Rs 15,000 for the project which never took off because of litigations. In 2009 the Sumer Group bought the colony for Rs 70 crore with the intention of redeveloping the colony.


Sumer Group had obtained clearances from SRA in December 2012 to redevelop the property


Three years ago, Sumer Group had bought the land of Willingdon Colony from its previous owners, the Bombay Catholic Co-operative Society

Zip through Mumbai, over and under

MANASI PHADKE

Eastern Freeway is set for commissioning. A look at what the project will mean, and its journey of three decades

Mumbai’s Eastern Freeway, at 16.8 km described as the country’s longest within a city, is counting the days before it is thrown open to the public. The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) is rushing whatever work remains as it expects the freeway, save the last segment, to be commissioned “anytime”, marking the culmination of an idea conceived three decades ago.

A combination of road sections over, under and on level ground, the signal-free, toll-free freeway promises a straight ride from the eastern suburbs to south Mumbai in 25 minutes. It will connect to a number of roads now suffering from congestion. Once the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link from Sewri to Nhava and an elevated road from Worli to Sewri are in place, the MMRDA will connect these too to the freeway so that traffic can be contiguous between the south, the western and eastern suburbs and Navi Mumbai.

“The Eastern Freeway will not be any city road. It will be an evacuation road,” says Ashwini Bhide, additional metropolitan commissioner, MMRDA.

“We will need a few days to finish this work and expect it to be commissioned for traffic anytime,” she adds. Ahead of the inauguration by Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, engineers are merging ramps with the existing road, building a brick wall along a 400-metre stretch to reduce disturbance to housing colonies, and installing a foot over-bridge for residents.

The freeway has three segments, and the immediate launch will be of the southernmost, the longest, and parts of the second. The first stretch is a 9.3-km elevated, four-lane road from Orange Gate on P D’Mello Road to Anik, near Wadala. This segment will be the second-longest elevated road in India, after Hyderabad’s airport connector.

The second segment will be 5 km from Anik to Panjarpol, near Chembur, mostly a road at grade but also including twin tunnels 500 and 550 metres long. Four of this section’s eight lanes will be opened within a week, with the rest of the project likely to be commissioned by the end of the year. The third stretch is a 2.5-km elevated road from Panjarpol to Ghatkopar.

Originally, the three segments had been conceived as separate projects, with only the Orange Gate-Anik section counted as the Eastern Freeway. Once construction started, the MMRDA decided to merge the three projects.

Two-wheelers will likely be barred from using the freeway, but public buses will be allowed to use it.

FROM IDEA TO REALITY

In 1983, the Central Road Research Institute had recommended a transport improvement plan in the growing city. Among various projects, it recommended an eastern freeway as well as a western freeway for commuters in those suburbs.

“However, it was not looked at seriously until about 2003. By then, work on the Bandra Worli Sea Link, which was part of the Western Freeway, had started. Traffic on the eastern side was increasing, so we brought the Eastern Freeway back on the drawing board,” says D P Deshmukh, superintending engineer with the MMRDA.

Unlike the Metro or the monorail, the Eastern Freeway was not publicised for a long time. This was because during the first few years of its execution, the general attitude was that there were so many hurdles that the target seemed unlikely.

After the MMRDA sent a proposal to the Centre seeking funds under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, the project was sanctioned funds up to 35 per cent of its cost. Bids were called in 2007; construction started in January 2008.

There were some hurdles until 2009, with the MMRDA struggling to get the right of way, or ownership of land along the alignment. Construction of the second segment, the Anik-Panjarpol link road, had begun in 2004 itself but progress was slow as the MMRDA had to negotiate with various groups to shift more than 5,000 structures, most of them encroachments.

Work on the third segment, the Panjarpol-Ghatkopar link road, started in August 2009, and the MMRDA was able to attain complete right of way only earlier this month.

The original cost of the three segments put together was Rs 847 crore. It has now swelled to Rs 1,250 crore.

The tunnels

These will be the country’s first transport tunnels located within an urban sprawl. Nine metres high and 18 wide, they required 1,200 tonnes of steel. The debris, which piled up to 75,000 cubic metres, was used for the construction of the Anik-Panjarpol link road. The tunnels, with four lanes each, were built at Rs 80 crore.

For three years, more than 200 labourers worked on the tunels, drilling and blasting through rock till the tunnels found daylight. The authorities had initially expected to complete the tunnels within 18 months, but land acquisition and geological issues delayed it. There were about 1,500 encroachments on the mountains where the tunnels had to be blasted.

The rock prove weaker than expected, presenting another challenge. After starting construction, engineers came across a kind of rock that softens when it comes in contact with water. Not knowing how to deal with the stone, the MMRDA had to investigate before proceeding. Engineers used a process that stabilises excavations with anchor bolts, and applied a cement grout to the surface to counter the weak soil strata. In the end, the tunnels were given a concrete lining.


Along the way

Most engineers recall one night in 2011 when they launched a concrete slab over a bridge underneath which people wee living. This was at the century-old Victoria Bridge, covered with slums for as long as one can remember. Unsure about the strength of the bridge, engineers first propped it from the bottom before bringing the crane atop it to launch a segment overhead.

“We could not remove the encroachments as the land belonged to the Mumbai Port Trust and was not part of our right of way,” said Jaywant Dhane, executive engineer. “We launched the segment with people living and sleeping underneath. It was a task that required immense precision. Even a slight error would have been colossal.”

The MMRDA had to coordinate with more than 10 agencies, some for acquiring land, some for shifting underlying utilities, and some for general permission. These included the Mumbai Port Trust, customs, the salt pans commissioner, the environment department, the municipal corporation, the traffic police, BSNL, Hindustan Petroleoum, Bharat Petroleum, Indian Oil and Tata.

Part of the elevated freeway is on salt pan land near Mahul. Letters seeking clearance from the salt pans commissioner were sent around 2003; approval to take the project through the salt pans for about a kilometre came in 2011. “Taking possession of the salt pan land, struggling for it and ultimately establishing this missing link was, I would say, the most challenging task in the construction of the freeway,” Bhide said. When he gave approval, the commissioner asked the MMRDA to pay lease at six per cent of the ready reckoner rate for erecting a few pillars.

Two accidents arrested the pace of construction. In October 2011, an 80-mm bolt came off a crane being used to launch concrete segments, due to which the girder collapsed. In July 2012, a labourer was killed and seven were injured when segments of a launching truss came crashing down.

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