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Byelaws divide builders, planners

Residents and members of the builders’ fraternity stage a protest march at Dakbungalow roundabout in Patna on Thursday. Picture by Ranjeet Kumar Dey

The proposed building byelaws have created a division between the town planners and builders.

The rage against the proposed byelaws among the realtors was clearly visible when a section of them held a protest march on the busy thoroughfares in the heart of the city on Thursday afternoon.

Holding posters in hands, hundreds of protesters raised slogans against the byelaws and stalled the traffic movement on Fraser Road and Dakbungalow roundabout for several hours in the peak afternoon hours. The protest even turned a bit violent when a few protesters were detained at Kotwali police station.

Later, a delegation of National Builders’ Association handed over a memorandum against the byelaws to Shivdeep Lande, aides-de camp (ADC) to the governor. “The march was initially called by the National Builders Association, Patna, and it was later joined by members of Bihar Ekta Manch as well,” said Anil Kumar, president, National Builders’ Association, an organisation floated recently by the builders. Some members of the Builders’ Association of India, an all-India organisation, have also raised objections to the byelaws.

On the other hand, town planners have hailed the draft norms. “Patna and most other towns look like urban villages due to unregulated construction activities till date. Buildings were constructed and people started living in flats even when there were no approach roads, water supply or drainage facilities. If more open space, wider roads and safer buildings by means of slightly reduced FAR and more setback area are prescribed then it will help the people only. People should not be apprehensive as the proposed byelaws would ensure better living environment for future generations only,” said R.S. Chaudhary, retired chief town planner, urban development and housing department.

However, not everyone was ready to buy this argument. “The byelaws have exactly been copied from those of Bhubaneswar with negligible modifications. However, the conditions in the two cities are quite different. For instance, the average plot size for residential apartments in group housing in the New Bhubaneswar area is 1.5-2 acres and the minimum road width is also 60ft. However, the average plot size for the same in Patna is two to five cottah. Further, construction on smaller plot size in Patna is constrained by strict norms related to setback area and floor area ratio (FAR). Hence, these byelaws should be taken back in interest of common citizens,” said Shailendra Singh, member of Bihar Nagrik Manch.

Several buyers have also raised concern on implementation of the byelaws. “As taking flats on rent in Patna has become very expensive these days, we recently planned to buy a flat. However, we are apprehensive that because of the strict norms related to the FAR and setback area, the builders might shift the additional cost of the land to the buyers,” said Sunil Kumar, a private firm employee.

The draft of Bihar Municipal Building Byelaws was released by the state urban development and housing department on December 14 and the feedback to it would be accepted till December 31. The byelaws prohibit any new construction along roads less than 20ft wide (6m). No multi-storeyed structure would be permitted on plot area less than 800sqm.

However, the builders have outright negated the proposals. “At present, only three roads in the city have the width of 30m and above, and 99 per cent of the plots along these roads are less than 2,000sqm (approximately 16 cottahs). Hence, no construction of 15m buildings would be possible in the city once the proposed building byelaws are implemented. Moreover, old existing areas like Patna Sahib, where the average road width is less than 6m, construction even in residential areas would not be possible,” said Vishnu Kumar Choudhary, vice-chairman, Indian Institute of Architects, Bihar-Jharkhand chapter.