January 19, 2021 3:43:36 am
Since December last year, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has demolished 40 chimneys, which had been emitting toxic fumes, from the smelting and gold polishing units located in Bhuleshwar, Kalbadevi and Zaveri Bazar areas in South Mumbai.
Local residents, who have been spearheading a fight against gold polishing and melting units in the locality for nearly two decades, are, however, skeptical about the action taken by the civic body. “These units start their work after 6 pm and work through the night to escape the demolition action by the BMC. Even if we raise a complaint, the civic body team comes in only the following day. By that time, all the units are shut. Even if BMC staff demolishes the chimneys, these are back once the drive fizzles out. They need to demolish the entire structure,” said Harikishan Goradia, a member of the Bhuleshwar Residents Association.
The BMC, which has removed over 1,300 chimneys from the area since 2016-17, is aware of the chimneys being reconstructed or reinstalled. “At many places, there has been stiff resistance to our demolition staff. In such cases, we demolish the chimneys from outside,” said a ward official.
“Even if we demolish the chimneys, the workers continue their work inside the rooms, inhaling toxic fumes and leading to further health problems,” added the official.
In 2001, after a fire in one of the units killed 24 persons, the government had said it would shift the units within a month. The fire report submitted then by the Mumbai Fire Brigade had pointed out that the area faced serious risk of explosions and fires, because of illegal and hazardous activities related to jewellery-making being carried out. The report had suggested stopping all such activities in the area.
In 2018, the then chief minister Devendra Fadnavis had directed that these polluting establishments should be shifted out. However, no final plan has been prepared to date. Besides Fadnavis, former chief ministers Prithviraj Chavan, Vilasrao Deshmukh and Sushilkumar Shinde too had said that these units would be relocated, but not a single one has been shifted.
While plans to shift the units to industrial areas in Navi Mumbai have been discussed, residents complained that it had been done only on paper.
The Bhuleshwar Residents Association recently wrote to the civic ward, complaining about the increase in the number of units.
The BMC, however, claimed that since 2018, its personnel have removed 1,300 such units from the area.
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