Mumbai: In a major relief to the 35,000 residents of Mahul village, the 'toxic hell' of Mumbai, the Bombay High Court on Monday ordered the Maharashtra government and the city civic body to shift them to "safer places".
The HC has also ordered the authorities to ensure no other family in general, and the Project-Affected Persons (PAPs) in particular, are allotted any house in Mahul.
The bench of Chief Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice Bharati Dangre also directed the authorities to pay Rs 15,000 to each of these families, so that they can move to alternative accommodation.
The bench has further directed the authorities to pay Rs 45,000 to each of the families as security deposit. The judges were dealing with a bunch of petitions filed by hundreds of residents, led by Bilal Pathan and Anita Dhole, all living in Mahul.
They urged the bench to direct the authorities to implement a similar order passed by another bench of the HC in August last year.
The government, on the other hand, challenged the orders of the National Green Tribunal (NGT), which had in December 2015, declared Mahul to be unsafe for humans.
It had also challenged a series of reports prepared by various government and private agencies regarding the conditions prevalent in Mahul and the impact of the air quality on the health of the residents.
Agencies like the state and central pollution control boards, the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute and IIT Bombay, had all concluded, in their separate reports, that Mahul was not a safe place for humans. All these agencies gave the same recommendation -- shift the residents to safer places.
Having referred to all the reports, CJ Nandrajog noted that the air pollution in Mahul is 'far higher' than the permissible standards as per the odour-monitoring threshold, the ambient air quality standards and other international standards.
Referring to the comprehensive report of IIT Bombay, the bench noted that it provides a contemporary record of the health issues presently faced by PAPs residing in Mahul.
"It is evident that the report is self-explanatory, and portrays an irrefutable picture of the fate of those persons being compelled to live in Mahul against their will, not merely in terms of their health, but also the domino effect of their poor health on their ability to live a dignified life as self-sufficient, productive members of society," CJ Nandrajog observed.
The judges further noted in their 71-page judgment that the presence of multiple refineries in the vicinity pose not only health but even security risks.
"It is therefore evident the residential premises in the vicinity of refineries can pose multi-faceted security risks, which are not only restricted to the health of the residents nearby and the absolute liability imposed on the refineries, but a terrorist attack using these refineries as targets could lead to colossal destruction within the city, that could debilitate a large number of people living around the Chembur region," CJ Nandrajog observed.
Accordingly, the bench said the PAPs residing in Mahul will have to be shifted and no further allotments of tenements should be made to PAPs and slum dwellers in this area.