Mumbai: After being criticised in the past for sending families displaced by public projects to a polluted resettlement colony in Mahul, the BMChas again allotted houses in the area to a new batch of evacuees.
In September 2019, the Bombay High Court had asked BMC to stop sending homeless families to Mahul and to provide homes outside Mahul to people already living there. The court’s order came in response to pleas by families forced to shift to Mahul.
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Recently, the assistant municipal commissioner (AMC), G-North Ward, allotted tenements in Anik, Mahul, to slum dwellers who were removed from Vithal Desai Park, Mahim. The slum dwellers have been given 20-square-metre tenements near SG Chemicals Premises, Anik.
The AMC, Prashant Sakpale, was not available for a comment, but BMC sources said that the new resettlement tenements were not located in the area restricted by the court.
Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan activists demands:
Activists from ‘Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan’, a group representing residents of resettlement colonies, said that the site where the BMC wants to send the new evacuees is away from the area where the court had put a restriction on more residents. “But there is scope to challenge the [BMC] order in the courts,” said Bilal Khan, a member of the group.
The Mahul tenements were built around two decades ago to resettle project-affected persons. The colony has 72 buildings with over 17,000 families. In 2009 the high court had ordered the BMC to demolish slums along the Tansa water pipeline. The slums were a hygiene and security threat to the city’s water pipes, the court had said. The families from the slums demolished along the pipeline were moved to Mahul. In 2019, the court stopped resettlement at the tenements after studies showed the area was highly polluted.
Civic activists said that the entire Mahul resettlement area, and not just one locality as claimed by the BMC, is unfit for habitation. “I have visited the area twice. The buildings are built so close that some tenements do not get sunlight at all. There is a residue of oil in the air and there is a film of oil on water stored in drums,” said lawyer Godfrey Pimenta of the citizens’ group Watchdog Foundation. “The decision to shift the slum dwellers to Mahul is totally contradictory to the Bombay High Court order,” Pimenta said.
The Mahul resettlement colonies are located in the middle of a large industrial complex that has two oil refineries, a power plant, a fertiliser company and other factories.
THE STORY SO FAR
The Environment Pollution Research Centre of King Edward Memorial Hospital, Parel, conducts a respiratory mortality study in Mahuland finds that two out of every three persons have respiratory problems at least three days a month. The study finds higher than average rates for asthma.
The Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, does a study on the infrastructure in the resettlement colony. The study, commissioned by Maharashtra’s Urban Development Department, as directed by Bombay High Court, finds air pollution, sewage issues and water contamination in the area.
The Bombay High Court asks BMC to stop sending homeless families to Mahul and to provide homes outside Mahul to people already living there. If the BMC does not have tenements to put up the families, the civic body is to pay rent to the families so that they can find their own accommodation.
The National Green Tribunal imposes a fine of Rs286 crore on four companies in the Mahul area for releasing Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs – a group of aerosols that can have adverse health effects) in the air at Mahul and neighbouring Ambapada villages.