Bimal Gurung directed Darjeeling Municipality to stop demolition drive

Gurung stops demolish drive

Vivek Chhetri

Darjeeling, Aug. 16: Bimal Gurung today directed Darjeeling municipality not to dismantle buildings above the stipulated height of 11.5m and said the height limit will be increased to 14.5m.

Bimal Gurung directed Darjeeling Municipality to stop demolish drive
Bimal Gurung directed Darjeeling Municipality to stop demolish drive

The directive to stop pulling down illegal structures comes less than a month after Gurung instructed the municipality to start dismantling such buildings.

Today, Gurung held a meeting with civic body officials and building owners, who had been served notices for violating the 11.5m regulation, at the Gorkha Rangamanch Bhavan.

“After hearing all sides, we have decided that no building in town would be dismantled. We have also decided to raise the height restriction from 11.5m to 14.5m as done by the previous board. We will strictly monitor all new constructions and no buildings beyond 14.5m height will be allowed to come up (from now),” Gurung said after the meeting. “Well, there is also political controversy,” he added without elaborating.

On July 27, Gurung had directed the civic body to pull down illegal structures and two floors of an under-construction market building were dismantled the next day. Gurung mentioned nothing about the building today.

Gurung’s volte-face, however, comes as no surprise as his party is set to face three elections in the next two years. While the municipality and Assembly polls are scheduled next year, GTA will complete its five-year term in 2017.

The GTA chief executive’s decision to raise the height ceiling came as a surprise.

In 1997, the GNLF controlled Darjeeling municipality had written to the state to increase the height restriction from 11.5m to 14.5m. D.K. Pradhan, a central committee member of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, was the chairman of the civic body when the resolution was adopted.

In Darjeeling, an 11.5m building is usually four storied. A five-floor building is around 14.5m high.

Although a resolution had been forwarded to the state, there has been no amendment with regard to the 11.5m restriction.

A recent survey conducted by the Darjeeling civic body found 337 buildings, including the Gorkha Rangamanch Bhavan where Bimal Gurung sits as the GTA chief, had violated the 11.5m limit. Rangamanch Bhavan has seven floors and is more than 18m tall.

“The survey gave a clear indication that it would be impossible for the civic body to go ahead with such an extensive drive. It was also revealed that many flats, five, six or seven storied, had been bought by local people and builders had nothing to do with the structures any more. There would have been a lot of problems if the municipality had gone ahead with the drive,” said a source.

The Darjeeling civic body has also been directed to form a board to take legal opinion on what stand would be taken on the illegal buildings (over 14.5m). The earlier board had regularised such structures (by imposing fines on them) but the present board had recently said it would not consider the buildings as legal. “A legal board will be formed. D.K. Pradhan and P.T. Ola (GTA Sabha members) who are lawyers, will be part of the board,” said Darjeeling civic body chairman Amar Singh Rai.

According to Darjeeling municipality records, there are 9,996 registered holdings (houses) under the civic body.

Today, Gurung said GTA was exploring the possibility of constructing a circular ropeway between Ghoom and Darjeeling and setting up satellite townships at Rangit and Happy Valley tea garden areas. “During construction of the circular ropeway, few floors of some buildings might have to be dismantled as we might have to set up six towers. We will adequately compensate the building owners,” he said.


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