Finally, BMC To Provide Newer Slums With Water

Mumbai : After a landmark High Court judgment in December last year, the BMC has finally come out with a policy to provide water to slums that have come up in the city after 2000, albeit at a higher rate of Rs 4.32 per 1,000l. The policy will benefit lakhs of people living in shanties on municipal or state government land, but activists are miffed since the policy does not cover slums on private land, city streets or footpaths.

The High Court in December last year directed the BMC to provide water to all slums that have come up after 2000 as against the current policy to provide water only to the legal ones. The BMC was given a deadline of February 2015 to come out with a policy to provide water to all illegal structures. Thus, the civic hydraulic department has come out with a proposal wherein slum dwellers with a valid ration or Aadhar card, and who submit the required deposit in groups of five shanties, will be eligible for one connection. And since the HC has allowed the BMC to decide on the rate at which this water will be provided, the civic body will be providing water at Rs 4.32 per 1,000l as against Rs 3.89 that it levies on other slum dwellers in the city.

Slums have been divided into three categories: those which have an existing network of water pipelines as well as water supply with enough pressure, those which do not have a network of water pipelines, and those which do not have water supply with adequate pressure. While those areas in the city which fall in the first category can apply for a water connection immediately, others will have to wait for at least a year until the mechanism is in place.

“These people have been using water anyway. All we are doing is giving them an official connection. But this connection is no proof of legitimacy. After all, these slums are illegal and they will be demolished some time. Until then, we will provide them with water,” informed civic hydraulic engineer Ramesh Bamble.

But the policy has left out slums erected on private land, city streets or footpaths, coastal areas and project-affected slums, while the ones on central government land, including MbPT, will need a clearance from the authority concerned for a connection.

“The higher rate of supplying water to these slums is fine but the BMC seems to be going out of its way to limit the policy and leave out large chunks of slums. At least 5-6 lakh people live on central government land. Why is the BMC laying out hurdles for them when it provides water for swimming pools in illegal high profile societies?” asked Sitaram Shelar, convenor of Pani Haq Samiti, which had filed the petition in the HC.

The proposal will be tabled before the standing committee on Wednesday and if approved, will need the consent of the civic general body.

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