Infrastructure crunch,river rot,unkept promises drag Dahisar backward

Hills to the east get encroached by slums,river plan drags on.

Written by Swatee Kher | Mumbai | Published:January 16, 2012 2:01 am

Dahisar,the northern tip of Mumbai along the sea,straddled by hills to the east that are getting encroached by slums and a river running through,which citizens say is a health hazard and an eyesore,truly represents the uncontrolled growth and associated problems the nation’s commercial capital is facing.

The ward starts at the checkpost,runs along Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP),Mandapeshwar and IC Colony,which are upper middle class housing areas. Then comes the large pockets of slums on forest land and the vast mangrove stretches.

Largely comprising Maharashtrian population,the growth of slums on vacant government land and hill slopes had pushed population up from two lakh to four lakh from in 1985 to 2001.

The region has seven municipal wards mainly represented by the Shiv Sena with the Congress winning only two the last time. In the last polls,which put Sena in power along with ally BJP in the BMC,the biggest promise Sena had made in Dahisar was to clean up the river,widen it and build retaining walls. The Sena winning here in Dahisar in the last Assembly polls also did not seemed to have helped,residents feel.

Last week Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray had claimed that work on the river had transformed it,but residents living along the river do not agree. The work supposed to have been completed years back is clearly on now,with debris dumped along roads and sewerage lines of new buildings coming up spewing the extra load into the river through stormwater drains.

Citizens groups have been petitioning local civic authorities to address their complaint of loss of recreational spaces because of dumped debris and breeding of mosquitoes as sewage is dumped into the river.

MNS MLA Pravin Darekar,who is a resident of Dahisar,minces no words to attack the Sena for not catering to citizens’ needs. “What work have they done along the river? It was to be completed in 2008. It has become an open nullah where all garbage is thrown and sewage dumped. They have not been able to keep their promises,” he said.

Former mayor Dr Shubha Raul,the Sena corporator from Mandapeshwar,the area that lies on the river banks,said they had done their best to complete the work. Some problems remained due to court cases and the issue of removal of encroachments,she said.

“Seventy per cent of the work is over. There are some hurdles due to court issues,but we are committed to making the river clean again,” she said.

Locals criticise Raul for having stayed away from the constituency after she was elected mayor. She defends herself saying she was available for people of her ward at all times.

Increasing slum population in eastern Dahisar,which has spread along hill slopes,poses a challenge to water distribution and sanitation,besides road connectivity. On the hills,water pressure is low and citizens are forced to search for other means. Water theft being common,old housing societies are left high and dry.

The ward had a budget of Rs 110.02 crore for the 2010-11 fiscal.

While 35.43 per cent of revenue expenses were shown,civic amenities and development projects no money was spent on clearing the slums.

Congress corporator Rajendra Choube,who represents Ketakipada,which has large slum pockets,said slum population had doubled in the last few years and there is no provision to tackle their demands. “Slums have grown and reached saturation and people have started building lofts. The corporation has failed to provide sewerage lines to many areas leading to clogging of drains,” he said.

With no municipal market or a major hospital,opposition leaders blame planning by civic authorities for lack of facilities. In the last assembly elections,Sena retained the seat,Congress was placed second and MNS a distant third.

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