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

Top upper caste judges 'biased' towards Dalit colleagues: US Bar Association report

By Rajiv Shah  A high profile report prepared by the influential  American Bar Association (ABA) Center for Human Rights , taking note of the fact that “in the 70-year history of the Indian Republic, only six Dalit judges have been appointed to the Supreme Court”, has taken strong exception to what it calls “lack of representation of Dalits” in the legal profession and the judiciary.

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Whither SDG goal? India's maternal mortality rate fall target 5.5% per yr, actual 4.5%

By Srinivas Goli, Parul Puri* The maternal mortality ratio (number of maternal deaths per one lakh live births) is a key and sensitive parameter used by health policymakers to monitor maternal health conditions in particular and women's status in general in a country.

Fresh efforts to subsume Buddhism within Hindu fold 'undermining' Ambedkar

By Aviral Anand*  From Yeola in 1935, when Dr Ambedkar announced that he would not die a Hindu, to Nagpur in 1956 when he converted to Buddhism, is a considerable distance in time. But, there was in him a need to make a public announcement in 1935 about moving away from Hinduism. 

Unlike other revolutionaries, Hindutva icon wrote 5 mercy petitions to British masters

By Shamsul Islam*  The Hindutva icon VD Savarkar of the RSS-BJP rulers of India submitted not one, two,or three but five mercy petitions to the British masters! Savarkarites argue: “There are no evidences to prove that Savarkar collaborated with the British for his release from jail. In fact, his appeal for release was a ruse. He was well aware of the political developments outside and wanted to be part of it. So he kept requesting for his release. But the British authorities did not trust him a bit” (YD Phadke, ‘A complex Hero’, "The Indian Expres"s, August 31, 2004)

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Reverse progress in fight against hunger? 15.3% of India undernourished: GHI

By Harchand Ram*  Every year October 16 is observed as World Food Day to celebrate the date of the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. In the year 2021, the theme for World Food Day is “Our actions are our Future-Better Production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life”.

Savarkar 'opposed' Bhagat Singh's, Netaji's dream of India, supported British war efforts

By Shamsul Islam* In a shocking development, the student wing of the RSS put the busts of martyrs Bhagat Singh and Subhash Chandra Bose with Savarkar's on one pedestal at the University of Delhi late in the night on August 20, 2019. Bhagat Singh sacrificed his life for a socialist-democratic-secular republic and Netaji raised Azad Hind Fauj (INA) consisting of people of all religions and regions for armed liberation of India.

Global Hunger Index: Govt of India response pathetic, 'lacks' scientific empirical evidence

By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ* Come 16 October – and the world once again focused on the most basic need for a person’s survival: food! The first World Food Day was observed in 1994, to mark the launch of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. Ever since, the day is marked to highlight the need and importance of food security across the world. The significance is accentuated especially in these difficult times like the C-19 povidandemic. The theme for 2021 is ‘Safe Food Now for a Healthier Tomorrow’, emphasising on the various immediate and long-term benefits of consuming safe and healthy food.

Failure of 'trickle down theory' behind India's poor Global Hunger Index rating

By Dr Gian Singh*  On October 14, 2021, two organisations, Concern Worldwide (An Irish aid agency) and WeltHungerHilfe (a German organization that researches the problem of global hunger), jointly published the Global Hunger Index (GHI) for 2021. These organizations have included 116 countries in the world hunger rankings.