STH readers may recollect that in Dec 07 (refer blog of 12Dec 07) we had FAXED, to the Chief Minister, Govt of West Bengal, a summation of all important points about landslides that had emerged in the 4 months that STH had existed. The relevant part is reproduced below:-
"c) Checking of unplanned urban growth and abiding with regulations
It is unfortunate that though regulations are in place regarding height of buildings, soil testing, road construction and so on; scant attention has been paid to any of these, resulting in unplanned and rampant urban growth.
Whereas it may not be possible to reverse this, it is possible to prevent further damage by strictly enforcing regulations and imposing fines/ resorting to legal action against all those who flout these rules.
In this regard, no construction should be permitted in slopes of 40 degrees or more."The news report in "The Telegraph" dated 11Aug08 (reproduced in part below) is more than welcome
Four-storey ceiling for Darjeeling
Darjeeling, Aug. 10: The Darjeeling Municipality has passed a resolution to sanction buildings up to four storeys. Unlike the earlier ceiling, no height has been specified this time. Normally, a four-storied building can be anything between 11.5m and 14m.
A meeting of the board of councillors on Saturday has also approved that all residents applying for the sanction of their building plans should submit an affidavit stating that they would not construct any floors beyond the permitted storeys.
“We will henceforth sanction only those building plans that are four-storied. The applicants will have to submit an affidavit maintaining that they would not be adding any further stories to the sanctioned drawing,” said Pemba Tshering Ola, the chairman of the municipality. However, even if there are no affidavits, action will be taken against those who flout rules, Ola said.
In the past, the GNLF-run municipality had been engaged in a tug of war with the state government over the height restriction. While the government wanted the maximum permitted height to remain 11.5m, the earlier boards wanted the ceiling to be raised to 14m.
The current board with 18 Gorkha Janmukti Morcha supporters among the 24 (the number has come down from 32 after one resigned earlier, six did on Saturday and one died), however, has decided to look more at storeys than the height in metres.
In another move, the municipality has decided to declare legal all those buildings which already have exceeded the 14m height restriction. “We will re-assess all such buildings and impose tax on them,” said Ola.
Earlier, since such buildings were not “legal”, the authorities could not levy taxes. Nor could they be demolished because of more practical reasons like stiff opposition. In fact, most buildings in Darjeeling are more than four-storied (in picture).
A promoter in Darjeeling town, not wanting to be named, said the decision was for the “health” of the town. “Although our profits will come down, we will have to follow the law,” he said.
The municipality has also decided to the make a “vision paper” of Darjeeling town. “We will get in touch with experts in Calcutta and Delhi in the third week of August. We are looking at demolishing old buildings owned by the municipality and utilise the space better. The vision paper will plan the town for the future,” said Ola. The municipality owns 20 buildings in town.