Residents of Azad Nagar, a formerly landslide-hit slum adjacent to a hill in Ghatkopar (West), are residing in fear of getting gravely affected by heavy rainfall once again.
In 2000, a land-slip caused by soil erosion during monsoons saw 78 people die and seven others were injured. Sixteen years later, the slum-dwellers continue to tell their stories of recurring monsoon troubles and coping with slipping boulders, as well as mud, garbage and floodwater entering their homes.
Khatiya Iqbal Sheikh, who has lived right under the hill for decades, said, “There are more slums and public bathrooms on the top of the hill. All the drainage water seeps down into our area. Why did the BMC construct these bathrooms when they knew the hill is landslide prone?”
According to the residents living there for over 30 years, civic officials send a notice to every family advising them to vacate their huts before the monsoon every year.
Pyari Salim Sheikh, another resident, said, “After the landslide in 2000, the government told us they would build a retaining concrete wall but they never did.” The women of the slum said they had sent complaint letters to the BMC office a month ago but it has yielded no result.
Further down the hillside, carpenter Mohammed Arshad (26) and his family of six said the problem is not that bad for them. “But, the notices come for the owners of the hutments only. We,tenants, should be provided with rehabilitation too,” said his aunt, Fatima Rahimullah Khan.
Elsewhere in the city, Salamati Hill or Raoli Hill as it is locally known in Sion Koliwada is surrounded with slum settlements on all sides. According to a local resident Sandeep Singh Dham, the hillock is home to more than a 1000 families, 50-55 per cent of whom are from South india.
One of the oldest residents living high on the hill, Lucky Kutti (33) gets an evacuation notice from the BMC every monsoon. However, like every other hillock dweller, she has never been offered an alternative housing option, she complains. The housewife and mother of one said, “There are seven houses on the top of the hill and my house is the worst-hit. When there is a risk of landslide, we send our children to our relatives’ places nearby.”
On the Bhandar Tekdi next to the Dockyard Road station, 115 local families are given notices pre-monsoon every
year. The notice stuck on a wall in the slum claims that BMC shall not be held responsible for any damage caused by landslide.
Salma Naik (44), a social worker who also lives on the hill, asked, “We are paying a monthly fee since 1995 for living in these houses. Isn’t it their responsibility to safeguard the slums then?”
Most of the locals of these landslide prone areas were willing to be rehabilitated by the government.
S S Shinde, Joint Municipal Commissioner (Disaster Management), pointed out that the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) is responsible for the construction of walls around the hill to prevent chronic landslides. “But, the height of the hill is too much and sometimes we cannot anticipate how bad the landslide will be. During an emergency situation, slum dwellers are rehabilitated to nearby shelters like schools,” he said.