The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation has issued a stop-work notice on the demolition of Laburnum House, Laburnum Road, Gamdevi that caused tremors in Mani Bhavan, a Grade 1 Heritage structure that is in close vicinity. Mahatma Gandhi had lived in Mani Bhavan for 17 years from 1917 to 1934. The call for Satyagraha against the Rowlatt Act that curbed the freedom of the Press was given by the Mahatma from there.
On Wednesday, Mangala Prabhat Lodha, Tourism Minister and local MLA visited Mani Bhavan and met the trustees along with local ward officials. "A one-week stop-work notice has been issued. We have called for documents from the Heritage Committee, approvals and plans on the height and the basement to see what is allowed and what is not. We will have a review meeting on Monday," said Lodha.
"The developer has been asked to submit methodology from IIT as to how he will be moving ahead with the work. They seemed to have received an NOC from the Heritage Committee to develop the property," said Sharad Ughade, assistant municipal commissioner, D Ward, under whose jurisdiction Mani Bhavan falls.
Mani Bhavan and local residents had raised safety concerns after tremors and vibrations were caused due to the razing of Laburnum House. "The work started around July but the tremors due to use of heavy machines were felt only in the last 14 days. Our other concern is that this is a heritage precinct and we do not know how the building was razed," said Meghshyam Ajgaonkar, executive secretary Mani Bhavan Gandhi Sangrahalaya.
"It is surprising that this has happened within 100 meters of the Grade 1 heritage structure. If the Heritage Committee has really given permission, then adequate measures should be taken," said Abha Narain Lambah who is looking after the conservation work of Mani Bhavan.
A source from the Heritage Department said that if a building in the heritage precinct is in dilapidated condition and beyond repair, they can get a no objection certificate from the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee. Also, the building should not be an art deco or known heritage structure.
"We are not against construction but it should be done keeping the safety of heritage structures in mind. Two weeks back, the debris from the upper floors that were being demolished fell inside our building premises. Fortunately, no person or car was there," said Neerav Soni, resident of Sethna House, the building next to Laburnum House.
When FPJ approached Laburnum House, a guard stationed provided the number of a supervisor who did not respond to the call and message from the FPJ. "We will wait to see what happens in the next Monday meeting," said Ajgaonkar.
Barricading at the Laburnum House mentions the name of the owner as Chandler and Price (India) Pvt. Ltd. The FPJ had reported about the Larburnam House being bought for Rs 93 crores in January by promoter Chandler and Price (India) Pvt. Ltd. The company, through its brand Inaya Living, undertakes luxury housing.