In the biggest-ever action to be taken against obstacles in the flight path of aircraft that enter and leave the Mumbai airport, India’s civil aviation regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), has ordered about 70 buildings in surrounding Vile Parle, Santacruz and Ghatkopar to reduce their height in 60 days flat.
This list of “obstacles” includes not just relatively new buildings but quite a few twostorey ones that were built over 50 years ago, reveal notices issued by the DGCA in June. Most of the old buildings have copies of height clearance certificates issued by the then relevant authority (the government-controlled
Airports Authority of India or AAI started giving no-objection certificates only in 1978). Most new buildings on the list have bigger portions to demolish as they are taller. The orders were issued on different dates in June and the deadlines would be in August.
Another 45 buildings, which also have valid NoCs for height, might be served similar notices as it has now emerged these were fraudulently issued by certain AAI officials.
The old buildings have been ordered to reduce height by anywhere between 1 and 6 metres, the newer and taller ones by a lot more. The order, which comes after the Bombay high court asked DGCA to submit a list of obstacles in the flight path, threatens to render thousands of residents, many of them senior citizens, homeless.
Representatives of 10 buildings gathered in Vile Parle last Thursday to discuss future course of action. They said they were all residents of two-storey structures constructed in the 1960s — about 20 years after the Mumbai airport, with its two cross runways and one terminal building, was built in the neighborhood to serve a city of four million residents, less than quarter of its current population. For five decades, they had received no communication from the government, they said. In 2016, they got a DGCA letter seeking information on building height, distance of the building from the Aerodrome Reference Point (ARP), date of construction, etc.
All along, the perception they had was that the taller, newer constructions around the airport were the obstacles and not the twofloor structures which were anyway surrounded by “bigger obstacles” like the Milan flyover and even many palm trees which are taller than their buildings.
“I’ve been staying here from 1967. Why is it that they have suddenly found my building to be an obstacle?” asked a senior citizen. “Where can we go? Is it possible for us to buy a new flat at our age?” said another. “Can our old buildings withstand demolition by 3m to 6m? If they collapse after demolition, who will bear the responsibility?” said a third. The questions were many.