Dying for some fresh air

M-West ward feels smothered by foul smell from Deonar dumping ground,air pollution from industries and ever increasing traffic because of its location,finds Stuti Shukla

Written by Stuti Shukla | Published: September 3, 2013 1:10 am

Despite the completion of a number of mega infrastructure projects within the ward such as the Eastern Freeway and the Suman Nagar flyover and near completion of the Monorail,pollution and traffic congestion woes of the residents of the M-West ward — comprising Chembur,Deonar,Tilak Nagar and Pestom Sagar areas — are far from over. In fact,they have only increased,residents complain.

A-year-and-a-half after civic elections,not much has changed here in terms of amenities. The amount of garbage being dumped at the Deonar dumping ground has only increased,adding to the respiratory ailments of residents. Five of the eight corporators elected from here last year are wives of former corporators,giving residents little hope of any major positive changes in their area.

Effluents and toxic fumes from factories and refineries and high concentration of vehicles on roads,besides the Deonar dumping ground,contribute to pollution in Chembur,one of the most polluted suburbs of the city. A joint survey by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and IIT-Delhi conducted in December 2009 had placed Chembur in the top half of the list of 88 most polluted industrial clusters in the country.

About three decades back,the area was largely industrial and used to be known as the “gas chamber” of Mumbai. Since then,a number of big housing colonies have come up in Chembur. Over the past few years,construction of mega transport projects such as the Monorail along the Ramkrishna Chemburkar Marg (RC Marg) area,the Eastern Freeway near Panjrapol and the much-delayed Santacruz-Chembur Link Road,have been causing huge traffic jams. Chembur also falls en route for those going to Pune through the Expressway or National Highway 4,and those heading to Navi Mumbai. This makes the presence of heavy vehicles such as trucks and trailers also high in the area.

Raj Kumar Sharma,an activist,says that traffic along RC Marg and at Shivaji Junction in Deonar,which leads to the approach road to the Eastern Freeway,has become worse. “People from Ghatkopar,Vikhroli,Powai etc take the diversion through Chembur to use the Freeway to get to south Mumbai. This has doubled the traffic in our vicinity,” says Sharma. He adds that the monorail project along RC Marg has left only 30 feet of the 120-feet road usable and it will only get worse because monorail stations are coming up in congested areas.

Civic records show that 68.4 per cent of the population in M- West ward lives in slums. This ward is also home to a huge chunk of rehabilitation tenements. More than 15,000 slum rehabilitation tenements spread over 900 acres have come up in Mahul,which has a fishing village that is slowly dying. The presence of major petrochemical and power firms has brought about a major change in its ecology. Gases such as ammonia and nitrous oxide are released in the early morning hours.

“These rehab buildings lack the most basic civic amenities and have become a beehive of criminal activities,destroying the social fabric of the area,” says Sharma.

Seema Mahulkar,wife of three-time corporator Rajendra Mahulkar,says repeated pleas with the ward office to provide civic amenities in at least the BMC’s rehab buildings have not been acted upon.

Locals blame the respiratory ailments rampant in M-West ward on the proximity to the dumping ground and the bio-medical waste incinerator in it,apart from emission from industrial units.

According to BMC statistics,more than 25% of the total deaths registered in Chembur in the last two years were due to respiratory problems. The leather industry in Thakkar Bappa slums also contributes to pollution. Instances of lung TB are high in the area. Non-slum area Chheda Nagar has been one of the worst affected by smoke from industries and stench from Deonar dumping ground.

Rapid redevelopment of old buildings and subsequent load on drainage systems have increased chronic flooding,with spots with Sindhi Colony being one of the worst-hit.

Sharma says Chembur once had several parks and open spaces but the only accessible green lung today is the Diamond Garden.

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