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Mumbai's "toxic hell" took life of 20 people since Aug 2018: Memorandum to CM

Counterview Desk
Seeking “urgent” and “immediate” relocation of residents rehabilitated in toxically polluted Mahul, Mumbai’s civil rights organization, Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan (GBGBA), a memorandum* to Devendra Fadnavis, chief minister of Maharashtra, has claimed that as many as 20 people have died since August 2018 as a result of the health hazard resulting from the extremely high level of environmental pollution in the area, where 5,500 families were dumped in flats for rehabilitation.
The letter follows 7,000 Mahul residents taking part in a raly starting at Carnac Bunder, Mumbai, in which senior citizens, women, children and chronically ill pollution victims marched up to Azad Maidan to present their “simple demand” to the Chief Minister – to honour the Mumbai High Court order of August 2018 to a location safe for human life. In all, over the last two years, following their rehabilitation, GBGBA contents, there have been “over 150 pollution-related deaths”, with hundreds becoming chronically ill.

Text of the letter:

You are already well aware of the issue of rehabilitation of 5500 project-affect families (PAFs) who have been forcibly evicted from the Tansa Pipeline slums and rehabilitated in Mahul, the most polluted industrial area of Mumbai, an area which is declared unfit for human living. The ecology of the sub-region with refineries and a large number of polluting industries , impacts air, water and all life support here. Locating human beings here is a violation of Air Act, Water Act, Environmental Protection Act as well as the orders of the National green Tribunal and the Hon. High Court of Mumbai; all this information is in the public domain.
These families were to be provided with “in-situ rehabilitation” and resettlement, as per your own promise in 2014, and the correspondence related to this commitment by Prakash Mehta, Minister for Housing. The latest in this regard was November 12th, 2108. i.e. over one month back. We are here today to seek your kind approval to the same with consent and order from you to shift the families who were wrongly rehabilitated in this hell immediately and without delay to save these lives.
The interim report of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Mumbai has pointed to multiple hazards which the residents of Mahul are facing daily. As per the report, the direction of the wind in Mahul is such that the Projected Affect Persons (PAP) colony will receive all the pollution from these refineries and industrial units. The report has also pointed to the serious issue of contamination of water. It admits that the drinking water has a thin layer of oil over it and the colour of water also gets brownish, indicating that it is not potable at all, at the very least.
There are some shocking findings in this report, along with other worrying facts related to the unsafe location of the PAP colony, which has already been found to be and officially declared by competent authorities as unlivable for human beings, based on both past as well as latest research, as well as health hazards, and actual pollution-related diseases and deaths faced by these residents on a regular basis.
The High Court of Mumbai on August 8, 2018, has already passed an order directing the Government of Maharashtra to provide alternative accommodation away from toxic Mahul. The government’s failure to implement the order of the High Court has led thousands of Mahul residents to hit the streets to appeal to you. Today is the 49th day of their peaceful dharna-agitation, demanding implementation of the order of the High Court of Mumbai, a protest where the women and children of Mahul, as a temporary resort, have begun their protest from a pavement where pollution is less than that at Mahul.
Twenty people have died out of respiratory diseases directly related to pollution even after the Hon. Court directed the government to provide safer alternative housing. More than 150 have died so far. A report by MCGM has pointed out that 88 people have died in Mahul within the last two-three years. It is inhuman and unjust that no concrete steps are being taken to address an issue as grave as this, with urgency and sensitivity. We have already sent to you as well as all the relevant authorities a number of memoranda and held dialogue with every concerned authority, including Vinod Tawde, Minister for Education, who was your representative on June 29, 2018.
Moreover, it was on 17 July, 2018 that Environment Minister of Maharashtra Ramdas Kadam had officially written to you that Mahul is an uninhabitable place, and that the residents of Mahul should be relocated immediately. Kadam, we know, reminded you again on October 26, 2018.
The findings by IIT-Mumbai, the order of NGT regarding Mahul and the letter from the Environment Minister himself have established that due to the worst level of pollution, Mahul is not safe for human beings, and forcing people to live there is resulting in fatalities and therefore is truly criminal. We urge you to take the right decision and exhibit your sense of justice at the earliest.
You are also aware of the fact that during the ongoing agitation, a meeting was held with Housing Minister Prakash Mehta on November 12, 2018, in the presence of all responsible officers of the Government, as well as MCGB, Bhushan Gagrani and Sanjay Kumar. In the meeting, Mehta gave a decision in his official capacity that 5,500 residents could be rehabilitated in Kurla HDIL. He also coveyed to us your positive approach and consent to in-situ rehabilitation since years, and promised to seek the approvals on the written proposal.
The minutes of the meeting are also attached herewith. He also informed us that as Housing Minister, he had been planning for in-situ rehabilitation of Tansa Pipeline Affected Persons since 2001. He showed us several letters he had written to you in this regard. Copies of some of these letters are attached herewith. While we have been awaiting your official written approval, it emerged that you have refused to approve the proposal to rehabilitate the Mahul residents in Kurla HDIL, even on a temporary basis to save their lives.
We were surprised to know that you have no other plans as an alternative for the rehabilitation of Mahul residents, when their lives are at high risk. With the intervention of Aditya Thackeray, MHADA has come forward and offered at least 350 tenements to the Mahul residents, having looked into the serious issues of life and survival.
We have already sent you a list of PAP tenements, already constructed by different housing agencies like MMRDA and SRA which too are available (refer Annexure A ). However, the best possible option seems to be temporary shifting of all residents to one place simultaneously and immediately (in-situ at their original habitation) i.e. to the HDIL Complex at Kurla. These are available without any barrier or execution difficulties as per Minister for Housing Prakash Mehta, all other officials, Nasim Khan and many other MLAs. We just await your order now.
No objection can be raised by any authority, either since thousands of tenements have been built and lying vacant since years. Considering the urgency and need for a humane solution in the context of pollution-related deaths and chronic diseases in Mahul, this option of HDIL Complex Kurla, will not require the bringing together of many different authorities.
Kindly take a final call on this, and ensure justice by relocating the PAPs who are residing in toxic Mahul to HDIL Complex in Kurla, without wasting any more time or causing more deaths.
---
*Signatories: Medha Patkar Anita Dhole Patil Bilal Khan Haresh Karambale Nandu Shinde, Ashok Maskar Rekha Gadge BR Verma

Comments

Uma Sheth said…
Fadnavis needs to visit an Ophthalmologist and an Otorhinolaryngologist.

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