Slums,illegal construction and graft plague this ward

Dominated by slum encroachments,illegal construction and corruption,Kurla — which falls under L Ward— has shown an absence of planning in the past five years.

Written by Dipti Sonawala | Mumbai | Published:February 3, 2012 5:04 am

Dominated by slum encroachments,illegal construction and corruption,Kurla — which falls under L Ward— has shown an absence of planning in the past five years. Grappling with these issues,the area now houses some of the Mumbai’s most dreary and most neglected areas.

L Ward,which spans across areas of Kurla,Sakinaka,Chunabhatti,Jari Mari and parts of LBS Road,is surrounded by Tansa Pipeline,Vikhroli and Ghatkopar Hills on the east side,the Mithi river on the west and Sion Creek on the south. Its northern boundary is formed by Powai.

The ward spreads across 15.88 sq km and has the highest number of slum settlements in the city. According to Census 2001,Kurla has 232 notified slum settlements. Slum population — 6.59 lakh — comprises nearly 85 per cent of the total population of 7.78 lakh.

Kurla’s slum areas have managed to make headlines often,whether it is the Nehru Nagar rape and murder case,landslides and building collapses in Kasaiwada,Quresh Nagar,Jari Mari and Kajupada after July 26,2005 deluge,or the mysterious seepage of an oil-like substance from beneath shanties in June 2011.

The area is said to be a hotbed for illegal constructions. The data with civic body shows there are over 45,000 structures in Kurla and Sakinaka,of which BMC does not have a record.

Kurla has the highest number of dilapidated buildings (94) and witnesses landslides and collapses almost every monsoon. “L Ward is one of the largest and one of the most badly maintained wards in the city. Full of dilapidated buildings and illegal constructions,the area has only one civic hospital. A plot reserved for a hospital at 90 feet Road in Sakinaka was encroached upon. There is not a single degree college in the entire ward,” said RTI activist Anil Galgali,who is also the chairman of NGO Athak Seva Sangh.

The BMC says there are 156 landslide-prone sites,of which 15 are in L Ward. “In the last 15 years,Kurla alone has witnessed over 25 major landslides in areas like Jari Mari,Sunderbaug,Sanjay Nagar,Khadi No 3 and Mohili Village. More than 200 people died and 250 injured in these landslides,” added Galgali

Residents and social activists of the area alleged that illegal constructions and encroachments are on a rise as these issues are shielded by political parties. “There are many major infrastructure projects that are passing through L Ward. While over 900 families from these slum pockets have been already shifted to Mankhurd,the authorities are unable to shift a large population resulting in delay in projects. The Kurla Subway project is incomplete even after seven years. All these are due to corruption among civic authorities and political leaders,” said Jitendra Gupta,resident of Kurla west and member of citizen transport committee.

Cases of corruption and inaction by civic officials have been on a rise in the last five years. In 2006,10 engineers from the zone were suspended by the then deputy municipal commissioner for inaction in various cases. A departmental inquiry was conducted against constituted on 133 officials from the ward for abetting and delaying action against unauthorised constructions in 2008-2009.

“The entire L Ward works on the nexus between civic officials,councillors and builders. Due to this,encroachments and illegal construction are mushrooming rapidly,” Galgali said.

The ward scored six in a BMC survey for standard of living,which is below the city’s Human Development Measure average. According to a survey report released by Praja Foundation in 2009-2010,L Ward was rated the unhealthiest ward after a total 14,593 cases of sensitive diseases were recorded by the civic dispensaries. This year,the number has increased to 16,219.

Officials from L Ward said that slums and encroachments are permanent problems and not just restricted to their ward.

“So far,we are concentrating on maintaining cleanliness in the area. We are putting a lot of efforts in collecting the garbage etc. There is an urgent requirement for traffic management and completion of the major infrastructure projects in the area. We have been receiving complaints of illegal constructions and are tackling them with whatever manpower we have. Our efforts in controlling malaria have been successful to a large extent,” said Harshad Kale,L Ward officer.

Kurla is one of the three areas in Mumbai where the BMC recorded the highest number of water theft cases. Hawkers,poor quality of roads and pavements and encroachments of open spaces are some of the other problems faced in the ward. Meanwhile,the non-slum areas located in Chandivali and parts of Saki Naka complain of pollution and traffic snarls.

The ward has seen a heavy presence of both Shiv Sena (six seats) and Congress (three seats) during the last five years. Though Shiv Sena had claimed maximum number of seats in the ward as compared to other parties,it is said that Congress and NCP dominate the area when it comes to decision-making.

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