Skip to main content

Mumbai's "dangerous" rehab site: There isn't even an evacuation road should any untoward accident occur

Filth between Mahul's buildings, making them completely unhygienic
By Gajanan Khergamker*
On October 28, 2018, around 200 Project Affected People (PAPs) staged an indefinite sit-in in front of Gate No 2 of Somaiya College in Vidyavihar, their original location, from where they were shifted to Mahul. An Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Mumbai inception report on the issue only validates their fears. And, this time around, they are firm, they're just not going back to the hell that risks engulfing their very existence.
Starting October 1, 2018, as directed by the Bombay High Court, the state government had begun the process of relocating around 5,500 families suffering from excessive air and water pollution in Chembur’s Mahul area. The Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) officials held a meeting in this regard with representatives of the affected families, assuring them of 300 houses in the first phase of relocation.
It was on August 8, 2018 that the High Court had given the October 1 ultimatum to the state government to decide on accommodation for affected people. The government can offer them reasonable amount for rent for residences till the issue at Mahul village is resolved, the court had said.
The issue in question being a grave violation of their basic human rights. The quality of water appeared “contaminated”; the space between residential buildings was “used as a dump yard posing serious threat to the health of inhabitants,”; a real “risk of water supply getting contaminated with grey water” and Mahul’s inhabitants being forced to keep windows shut due to “excessive spilling of sewage and grey water and foul smell”. 
Mahul buildings with BPCL Refinery in the backdrop
This and more were revealed by an IIT Mumbai’s inception report on Mahul. A full report titled “Survey of various infrastructure facilities to be provided to the Mahul project rehabilitates” prepared after direction from the High Court is expected to be submitted by end of November 2018.
That apart, IIT-Mumbai also cautioned the state government with the slightest change due to any geomorphological event, such as land subsidence or sea level rise, the high-tide line can shift landwards and cover the entire built-up area, endangering human inhabitation made for the PAPs that lies right next to the 50 metre buffer from mangroves in the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) II zone. The risks were real.
When Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) that lies barely a stone’s throw away from Mahul’s MHADA colony, registered a blast and fire at a refinery on the noon of August 8, 2018, it just made matters worse for the PAPs who realised there wasn’t even an evacuation road should any untoward accident occur. “We are like sitting ducks. Most of the residents here have simply fled their homes after that day. Even a slight sudden sound sends everyone running out of their homes,” says Mahul resident Hasmukh Waghela.
It was back in 2009 the Bombay High Court ordered Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to remove encroachments near the Tansa water pipeline citing safety and security threats. Of the 160 kms of water pipelines running through Mumbai, the BMC admitted through an affidavit filed in the High Court in 2009 that there were about 15,000 illegal structures on the 90 kms of pipeline that lay above ground.
Mahul resident Hasmukh Waghela
After a few civic orders were passed, the state government finally decided to allot tenements at Mahul, Chembur to the BMC for accommodating residents of structures existing since January 1, 2000.
However, over the years, the dismal condition of living standards of the PAPs, the escalating threat to the health of residents of Mahul and neighbouring Ambapada and a surge in skin ailments, lung disorders even cancers, led to loud demands for relocation to a safer option. In 2015, the National Green Tribunal (NGT), Pune too passed an order that said, “…there is a perceptible threat to health of residents of village Mahul and Ambapada due to prevailing air quality in the area”.
On March 15 this year, a hard-nosed Maharashtra government, in a last-ditch effort, assured the High Court through an affidavit filed before a division bench of Justices Abhay Oka and Riyaz Chagla, the state was sticking to its plan to shift over 11,000 PAPs to 59 buildings at the Eversmile Layout at Mahul.
The state government cited the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) and Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) reports that showed the ambient air quality was within prescribed limits. It even maintained the NGT order over pollution due to chemical factories in Mahul was based on an interim report by KEM hospital.
The displaced refused to move to Mahul and those living were bent on leaving. Even the High Court observed that “we cannot force people to go stay in Mahul in the light of the observations made by the NGT. The state government has two choices – either accommodate these persons elsewhere or give them monthly monetary compensation till they are rehabilitated.”
For now, the state is left with little option but to concede and relocate the PAPs.
---
*Founder of think tank DraftCraft International, Founding Editor of news portal The Draft, Founding Solicitor of the Chamber Practice and Producer at DraftCraft Films

Comments

TRENDING

ISKCON UK 'clarifies' after virus infects devotees, 5 die due to big temple meet

By Rajiv Shah
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), United Kingdom (UK), has admitted that at least 21 of its devotees were infected because of the spread of the coronavirus amongst the UK devotee community following the March 12 funeral and March 15 memorial of the Bhaktivedanta Manor temple president, in which about 1,000 people participated. Regretting that five of the devotees have passed away, the top Hindu religious in Britain body does not deny more may have been infected.

Mallika Sarabhai releases speech she was 'not allowed' to give at NID Convocation on Feb 7

Counterview Desk
The National Institute of Design (NID) in Ahmedabad, a Ministry of Commerce and Industry body, landed itself in controversy following its decision to put off its 40th convocation ceremony, where noted danseuse Mallika Sarabhai was invited as chief guest. The ceremony was scheduled to be held on February 7.

As corona virus 'travels' to rural areas, NGO begins training tribals, marginalised women

By Souparno Chatterjee*
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared corona virus a pandemic. Originating from Wuhan in China, it has traversed the entire globe, almost, and claimed more than 16,000 lives already. That’s largely the urban population. In India, despite all the preparedness and war-like promptness to safeguard against the pandemic, several lives have been lost , and hundreds of individuals have tested positive.

Rani Laxmi Bai, Tatya Tope 'martyred' by East India Company, Scindia's forefathers

By Our Representative
In an email alert to Counterview, well-known political scientist Shamsul Islam has said that was “shameful for any political party in democratic India to keep children of Sindhias in their flock” given their role during the First War of Indian Independence (1857). In a direct commentary on Madhya Pradesh Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia moving over to BJP, Prof Islam has quote from a British gazetteer to prove his point.

COVID-19: Dalit rights bodies regret, no relief plan yet for SCs, STs, marginalized

By Our Representative
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the National Dalit Watch-National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, endorsed* by several other Dalit rights organizations, have insisted, the Government of India should particular care of the scheduled castes and tribes, trans folks, persons with disabilities and the women and children from these communities, while fighting against COVID-19 pandemic.

Coronavirus scare ‘pushing’ people from Northeast India into more hardship

By Rishiraj Sinha, Biswanath Sinha*
“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background or his religion. People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” – Nelson Mandela
***

Gujarat govt plan to 'banish' Gandhian activist anti-democratic, unconstitutional

By Rohit Prajapati*
The current Central and Gujarat governments, and their bureaucracy, have been and are still unable to answer and address the concerns raised, with facts, figures, and constitutional provisions, regarding the terror of tourism in the name of the Statue of Unity and tourism projects surrounding it.

Gujarat construction workers walk home as Rs 2,900 crore welfare fund lies unused

By Our Representative
Situated behind the Gujarat University, some of the families of the migrant construction workers from Dahod and Panchmahals districts of Gujarat, and a few from Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, who had stayed put in make-shift shanties in Ahmedabad’s sprawling GMDC Ground, have begun a long journey, by foot, back to their home villages in the eastern tribal belt of Gujarat.

Modi, Shah 'forget': Gandhi’s first Satyagraha was against citizenship law of South Africa

By Nachiketa Desai*
Hindu fanatic Nathuram Godse assassinated Mahatma Gandhi once on January 30, 1948 but his followers raising the war cry of ‘Jai Sriram’ are killing the Mahatma every day. In his home state of Gujarat, Gandhiji was killed a thousand times in 2002 when over 2,000 Muslims were butchered, their women raped, homes and shops plundered and set on fire and even unborn babies ripped out of the wombs of their mothers.