At least 250 families located 20 metres from the protection wall around the Malad Hill reservoir have been identified by the state forest department as those in need of alternative temporary rehabilitation. On Monday, as the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) initiated the process of allocating alternative housing in Mahul, slum-dwellers in Ambedkar Nagar and Pimpri Pada continued to oppose the decision demanding housing close to their washed away homes.
On July 2, part of a 35-ft concrete wall of BMC’s Malad Hill reservoir collapsed on shanties in Ambedkar Nagar and Pimpri Pada in Kurar village, Malad, with rainwater washing away hundreds of hutments. The incident led to 28 deaths and injured 132. A joint survey by the forest department, collector’s office and Slum Rehabilitation Authority is underway to identify all huts that face the risk of getting hit by the wall.
According to NGO Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan, that is now in talks with the slum-dwellers, a land under Shivshahi Punarvasan Prakalp Ltd in Kandivali off Link Road has 510 flats available. “The state government monitors it. It can take a decision of allotting those flats to Malad residents. Why are Malad dwellers being sent to Mahul when it is known the area is not fit for human habitation,” said Bilal Khan, attached with the NGO.
Khan added that data collected by the NGO under Right to Information shows the Kandivali settlement is empty and available. The slum-dwellers, who lost their homes on July 2, said Mahul will be too far for their children to attend school and for reaching work.
BJP corporator Vinod Mishra, P-North ward committee chairman, said they are trying to convince BMC commissioner to provide alternative housing within a 3 km radius of existing hutments. “But BMC does not own a property so huge in the vicinity that can house so many families. The Kandivali land comes under state government,” he said.
Mishra added that BMC survey showed at least 45 huts in Pimpri Pada have been destroyed, and an ongoing survey in Ambedkar Nagar has found 40 damaged so far. The count of damaged huts is expected to rise in Ambedkar Nagar. Forest department figures varied a bit, with an official stating that 65 huts in Pimpri Pada were washed away and over 100 in Ambedkar nagar. “And few huts lie within 20 metres of the wall and face a risk. They also need to be moved to alternate location,” the forest official said.
While BMC remains keen on Mahul for temporary housing, activists have also claimed that Mahul’s groundwater is contaminated with chemicals and may pose a risk to those already injured in the tragedy. Recently the Bombay High Court had observed that Mahul, with several chemical factories in vicinity, was not safe for human habitation and had directed BMC to pay Mahul residents rent to find alternate housing.
“The commissioner has already issued a circular to shift locals to Mahul. No other area as big is available with BMC,” a civic official said.
According to the sources from the forest department, overall about 3,000 huts are in Ambedkar Nagar and about 800 are in Pimpri Pada.