Mumbai's "inhospitable" slum relocation: 23 deaths at rehab site due to industrial air, water pollution

By Our Representative
The Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan (GBGBA), Mumbai, organized a rally and dharna of residents of the Mahul and Tansa Pipeline Project Affected People to demand better rehabilitation. Held on June 29 to demand their relocation to a better place than Mahul, they wanted a comprehensive rehabilitation plan​ and a full stop to all demolition without rehabilitation.
The rally began at Carnac Bunder​ ​and culminated at Azad Maidan, and was led by renowned social worker and activist Medha Patkar. Thousands o people from Mahul, Bhimchaya Basti, students and activists from various social organizations were present at the rally.
Following the rally, a delegation of 10 people, who had sought a meeting with Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadanavis, were asked to hold talks with senior education minister Vinod Tawade as a “representative” of Fadnavis. Municipal commissioner Ajay Mehta was also present at the meeting.
Three main demands were discussed at the meeting: Stop all demolition of bastis, especially during the rainy season, even as rehabilitating the project affected people of the Tansa pipeline area in the flats constructed for the rehabilitating project-affected persons (PAPs) in Mahul.
Minister Vinod Tawade gave assurance that he would discuss this with the chief minister and would give reply within next seven days.
​​Given high level of pollution, the minister was told, residents of Mahul are dying and suffering from serious diseases. ​Mahul was declared inhabitable by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in 2015, yet the Maharashtra government decided to send poor citizens to Mahul, where the atmosphere is toxic and lacks basic amenities such as hospitals, schools, transport, etc.
The minister was also told that life has become miserable after poor residents were shifted here. The state government wants to shift more and more people to Mahul by ignoring all the health and environmental issues at Mahul.
By 2017, the delegation said, 20,000 homes had been cleared, and 30,000 PAPs were relocated to the Mahul complex in M-East ward, nearly 12 km away from their original settlement.
It added, alongside the Eastern Expressway, 72 seven-storey apartment buildings are located in close proximity to major industrial factories, including Hindustan Petroleum and Bharat Petroleum refineries, Sea Lord Containers, Aegis Logistics Ltd, Tata Power, and Rashtriya Chemical and Fertilizers.
Things are particularly serious because majority of the population being displaced from Tasna pipeline region to Mahul area are from Dalit, religious minorities, tribal groups.
The primary concern of residents of Mahul is the inhospitable environment and air quality that has contributed to serious health problems, which has led to the death of 23 people last year. A survey conducted by the KEM Hospital, and cited by the NGT (Western Zone) petition, reports that “67.1% of the population had complaints of breathlessness more than 3 times a month.”
Other common ailments include skin and eye irritation, choking, vomiting and hair loss. Sources for various illnesses include high levels of toluene diisocyanate, nickel and benzopyrene and other volatile organics. Poor drainage systems, solid waste removal, and contaminated water supply -- all exacerbate the negative health effects of the poor environmental standards.
According to GBGBA, “There is no official policy that clearly defines the level of ambient air quality acceptable for areas where people are relocated. Furthermore, there is no guidance for the duration and frequency of sampling that must be conducted prior to relocation of persons.”
In a statement it adds, “Courts have yet to issue judgment on the culpability of the nearby industrial polluters. There is also lack of accountability on the part of the the Bombay Municipal Corporation (BMC) for provide adequate standard of living for these forcibly displaced people.”
Significantly, in 2015, NTG directed the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) in to define a buffer zone between an industrial and residential area within four months. “Yet, no buffer zone has been defined till date. Instead the government decided to dump poor residents in an industrial area”, GBGBA said.
A woman living Ashok Nagar area, whose family is one of the affected families, said, “I have all the legal documents and proof of our house in that area, even then it was declared illegal and demolished. Our house was bigger than the house we got in Mahur area. Now we have to live in this small one-room kitchen without any basic facilities such as water, health and education for our children.”
She added, “When we shift here in Mahur, all the four members of my family fell ill. We saw the situation of people living here and now when we thought of going to the doctor, we are in continuous fear that we should not get affected with the diseases like skin cancer, with which other people in the region are struggling. We are fighting for our rights and the court gave us the date for next hearing. We don’t understand for how much time we have to fight for justice.”
Due to the isolated nature of the new relocation site, travel time and travel costs for work have been greatly extended. The nearest railway stations are Chembur station (8 km away) and Kurla station (12 km away). Travel to the train stations requires an expensive rickshaw ride, a treacherous bicycle journey or a public bus that comes extremely infrequently.
“The negative impact of relocation often falls most heavily on women”, GBGBA said, adding, “The long journey on infrequent public transportation is typically marked by harassment. Many women had to resign from their jobs, which were predominantly in service industries, as the longer commute prevented them from caring for their families and they were now removed from their employment networks.”

Comments

Rajendra Vyas said…
The best option for peace process with Pakistan is Let all these guys settle there and work for piece