The Mithi development project is likely to miss its sixth deadline due to delay in removal of encroachments along the river.
The project undertaken by BMC in 2007 to deepen and widen the river and build retaining walls was scheduled to be completed by December 2012. The new deadline is December 2013.
The civic administration had planned to start removal of the 1,500-odd shanties on the river bank on October 1.
Laxman Vhatkar,chief engineer in the storm water drains department,said,The removal of encroachments was supposed to begin after monsoon,but since the collectors office is still to decide the project-affected persons (PAP) we cannot begin widening and deepening in areas occupied by slum-dwellers. Once the festival season begins,it will become more difficult to shift the families.
Another senior official said the civic administration had been sending reminders to the collectors office to expedite the process of determining families eligible for the project,but the process was yet to begin.
Over 1,500 slum structures spread across 5 km stand in the way of the civic administration. These include the 1,139 on the stretch between CST Bridge and Kurla Kalina Bridge,where 469 structures stand on government land in Kismat Nagar. As many as 3,800 structures were demolished in the first few months of the project in 2006. Five years later,80 per cent of the river stretch has been widened but the civic body is still waiting for the collectors office to carry out surveys to ascertain eligibility of the remaining structures.
Vhatkar said the involvement of multiple agencies was partly to blame for the project delay. There are deputy collectors for every ward who are supposed facilitate the project at the local level. This takes away the accountability factor. An official in the collectors office claimed slum-dwellers were not cooperating. However,civic officials said MMRDA had already provided PAP tenements and these could be given to affected families immediately.
The river has been at the centre of a great flood debate ever since water entered Air India Colony,Santacruz,Kurla and other areas in 2005. Following the deluge,the Rs 1,700-crore project to widen and deepen Mithi was implemented. A stretch of 12 km,starting upstream at Vihar lake,was to be redeveloped by BMC,while the last 6 km where the river tails off into Mahim Creek was handed over to MMRDA.