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Will new Sena-led Maharashtra govt help free Mahul residents of Mumbai's toxic hell?

Doctors giving voluntarily service in Mahul
Counterview Desk
As doctors keep pouring in to voluntarily help Mahul residents in Mumbai, allegedly left to die of the toxicity in the neighbourhood because of industrial pollution, they expect relief from the new Shiv Sena-led government in Maharashtra, says civil rights organisation, Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan (GBGBA) in a statement.
Asserting that the Shiv Sena had supported demand of relocation of Mahul residents, GBGBA says, "Due the presence of refineries and various industrial units handling hazardous chemicals, Mahul, a fishing village near Chembur, Mumbai, was declared unfit for human habitation back in 2015 by the National Green Tribunal (NTG), a supreme judicial body on environment."

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The observation on the toxicity of Mahul was made by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) after villagers from Mahul approached the tribunal, as they were facing serious respiratory issues due to high level of air pollution who in the neighbourhood.
In spite of such serious observations, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) decided to forcefully rehabilitate poor citizens in Mahul after demolishing their settlements for various developmental projects in the city.
Daily wage workers, domestic helps, security guards, auto rickshaw/taxi drivers, electricians, plumbers, and other informal and skilled workers, who are responsible for subsidising the life in the city, were all dumped in Mahul in 2017.
Many immediately started facing serious health issues, including tuberculosis, asthma, cancer, skin-related issues and paralysis. The Bombay High Court in April this year, and again in September, directed the corporation and the Maharashtra government, to relocate these residents to other houses at safer locations or provide them monthly rent.
This time again the municipal corporation and the Maharashtra government decided to flout the court’s order, which further worsened the health of people living here. More than 300 people have died in a matter of two years, and almost everyone in the 5,500 families, who are living there, are suffering from critical diseases.
In the absence of public healthcare system in the neighbourhood, poor residents are forced to take to private hospitals which are highly expensive. With a monthly average income of Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000, Mahul residents are left with a difficult choice to choose between their medical expenses and daily expenses. If they decide to take care or medical expenses, they can’t take care of their daily expenses and vice verca.
While the residents continue their fight on the street and in the court for safer housing, Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan (GBGBA) has been organising free medical camps with the help of public spirited doctors to address the lack of accessibility to healthcare and affordability for Mahul residents.
In the second free medical camp that was held on Sunday, December 1, a lot of people came back and apprised GBGBA activists of improvement in their health after the first camp. However, unless air pollution doesn’t come down, diseases are going to come back again.
The new government has boldly decided to stop cutting of Aarey forests. Victims of pollution in Mahul are waiting for their turn to get justice
Mitigating pollution in such a highly-industrialised zone is impossible, and that is the reason why the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) in its report on pollution in Mahul recommended that residential zone should be discouraged to live in Mahul.
With the change in power in Maharashtra, Mahul residents are hopeful, as the new government is led by Shiv Sena, which earlier supported the campaign of Mahul residents, but because of the adamant stand of BJP in the previous government, the party couldn’t do much.
On the intervention of Sena leader Aditya Thackeray, 300 new houses were reserved for Mahul residents by Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA), but MCGM held back the allotment of these houses by citing technical glitches.
Now that the new government has taken the bold decision to stop cutting of Aarey forests, on which there was a huge campaign around, the victims of the pollution in Mahul are waiting for their turn to get justice.
A team of general physicians, gynaecologists, dermatologists, palliative care specialists and paediatricians have been holding camp every week here. However, this excellent initiative will provide temporary relief. A permanent solution can only be attained after all the families are relocated to the abundantly available safer housing for the poor as per the court order.
One hopes the newly-formed Maharashtra government will take urgent notice and follow court orders, relocating Mahul residents to a safe, clean and habitable environment, as promised.

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