It is not often that we, the citizens witness the stoic intellectualism working for the ends of general public good. The mixture of corruption and debauched practices in administrative offices and the general empathy of the power corridors concoct a situation where in the common people are always at the receiving end. PALAIS ROYALE – the much sought after residential high rise in Worli, Mumbai is such a case study in corruption and breach of fire and building safety regulations.

A new set of guidelines, which form part of the modified development control rules notified by the state government, lay down stringent provisions for fire-fighting and curb misuse of these areas by developers.

The new rules stipulate that a refuge area will have to be provided at every 7th habitable floor after the first 24 m of the high rise building. The refuge area shall be provided within building line at floor level. In case of high rise buildings having height more than 30 m, the first refuge area shall be provided at 24 m or 1st habitable floor, whichever is higher. Thereafter, the refuge area shall be provided at every 7th habitable floor,” it said.

The guidelines said that a refuge area will now be restricted to just 4% of the habitable floor area it serves, and will be free of floor space index or FSI__the ratio of permissible built up area vis a vis the plot size. If it exceeds 4%, the excess area shall be counted in the FSI,” it said. In the past, municipal commissioners were known to sanction entire floors as refuge areas, which the builders would then misuse for commercial gain. In an upcoming landmark residential tower near Worli Naka, the BMC sanctioned a refuge area of 550 sq ft outside every apartment, thereby raising eyebrows about its possible misuse in the future.

For buildings having height upto 70 m (about 24 floors), as an alternate, refuge areas can be provided as reinforced cement concrete (RCC) cantilever projections at the alternate mid-landing level of staircase, free of FSI. Each refuge area at mid-landing shall have a minimum width of 3 m and minimum area of 10 sq.mts for residential and 15 sq.mts for non-residential buildings,” it said.
Under the new law, in high rise buildings with upto 30 m height, the terrace floor of the building shall be treated as the refuge area. A fire check floor in a building having height more than 70 m will be mandatory. It will cover an entire floor at every 70 m level. However, the height of the fire check floor will not be allowed to be more than 1.8 mt to check its misuse. lt will not be used for any purpose and· it shall be the responsibility of the owner/occupier to maintain the same, clean and free of encumbrances and encroachments at all times, it said.
The refuge area shall have a door which shall be painted or fixed with a sign in luminous paint mentioning “REFUGE AREA”. The lift/s shall not be permitted to open into the refuge areas, it said. The rules further stated that refuge areas will be designated exclusively for the use of occupants as temporary shelter and for the use of Fire Brigade Department or any other organization dealing with fire or other emergencies and also for exercises/drills if conducted by the Fire Brigade Department”.

Yet, despite all such regulations being existent, if we look at PALAIS ROYALE case, what comes out is nothing short of a blatant breach of regulations and guidelines.

No regard, whatsoever, has been given to the precautionary measures, as ordained by the government and respective agencies.