The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bombay, on Friday submitted its final report on project-affected people (PAP) residing at Mahul to the Bombay High Court, saying that the overall quality of life was “severely affected and extremely poor” for residents. It has also recommended that to “prevent further harm” to lives and livelihoods of the people, there was “no option other than to shift the entire population to safer places”.
“In general, the overall quality of life (at Mahul), is severely affected and extremely poor for the residents. The conditions, especially relating to air pollution, sewage overflow, sanitary fixtures and water contamination, in addition to the possibility of industrial disasters, are not conducive for human dignity, safety, security and decent living,” the reports states.
“…Since the large-scale industries and refineries in the area that cause environmental damage and pollution cannot be shifted from this place, to prevent further harm to lives and livelihoods,there seems no option other than to shift the entire population or sections of the population to safer places,” it adds.
The Urban Development Department last year had asked the IIT Bombay to “survey infrastructural facilities to be provided to the Mahul project rehabilitates” on the high court’s direction. The report, prepared by professors D P Parthasarathy, A B Inamdar, Gopal Patil and Arnab Jana, was submitted before a division bench of Justices A S Oka and A S Gadkari, which has asked the state to respond on the report. It has also directed the state to provide accommodation on rent or alternative housing to the project-affected people, which will help them get a place to reside till the issue is resolved.
Following the Bombay High Court’s 2009 directive — to remove all encroachments near the Tansa pipeline — the state government had decided to allot (to the municipal corporation) tenements at Mahul, in Chembur, to accommodate the occupants of the structures (or huts) which were existing as on January 1, 2000. Around 1,000 families, who were shifted to Mahul from eastern Mumbai’s Ghatkopar area near the Tansa pipeline in 2017, had protested against the relocation and said that they had developed health issues within an year after they were relocated. Following protests, the high court in August 2018 asked the IIT-B to study the impact on the lives of the PAPs living in the heavily industrialised area.
The final report of the IIT-B states that during field visits, it was observed that the area “lacked severely in terms of overall hygiene and cleanliness”. “The alleyways between buildings, and often the entrances to the buildings themselves, were flooded with sewage water. There is considerable mixing of sewage and drinking channels and pipes leading to contamination,” it says.
It also states that of the total 260 households in the area, residents of at least 256 feel that there is a negative impact on their livelihood after shifting to Mahul SRA. Of them, 207 felt transportation is one of the factors that had impacted their livelihood in terms of longer trip length, less reliable public transportation service and high percentage of expenditure on transportation.
The report also notes that school facilities are also grossly inadequate in the area. “There appears to be violation of Right to Education Act, since a large numbers of young children have to travel long distances for education,” the report says.
It also observes few private practitioners and existing public health centres are unable to cater the health needs of the residents.