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SPARC of hope for airport rehabilitation plan

The state government’s ambitious claim that the rehabilitation of slumdwellers squatting on airport land will be underway in 2011 is now not only set to keel over

Written by Kavitha Iyer | Mumbai |
April 29, 2011 3:34:58 am

Back to square one * NGO hired to restart process of enumerating families squatting on CSIA land

The state government’s ambitious claim that the rehabilitation of slumdwellers squatting on airport land will be underway in 2011 is now not only set to keel over,but the project is also returning to the starting line. The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) has now roped in an NGO to restart the process of enumerating slumdwellers.

MMRDA officials confirmed that the Society for Promotion of Area Resource Centres (SPARC),earlier involved in the rehabilitation and resettlement component of the

World Bank-funded Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP),will soon deploy its team to identify,record and enumerate the estimated 80,000 families squatting on 276 acres of the severely land-starved Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA).

While the MMRDA maintains that the official headcount will continue to be conducted by the office of the Additional Collector (Encroachments),SPARC founder and Padma awardee Jockin Arputham said his volunteers will initiate a fresh consultative process with slumdwellers.

About 10,000 houses in critical slum pockets in Kurla have been surveyed until now after the government ordered a fresh survey last year.

However,people’s resistance to surveyors has been a major impediment and sources

in the Mumbai International Airport Ltd (MIAL) confirmed that the need for an NGO was felt after it became clear that the government survey was not making headway.

“We will start from scratch,” said Arputham,stating that while the government surveys until now been incomplete,the high percentage of families likely to be declared ineligible for free resettlement (40 to 50 per cent) will render the project a non-starter.

“Based on priority areas identified by MIAL,we will survey the pockets and be involved right through the rehabilitation process and for three years thereafter,” he said.

This will be the largest slum rehabilitation project in the world,said Additional Metropolitan Commissioner SVR Srinivas. With 34,000 families resettled,the MUTP and the Mumbai Urban Infrastructure Project were until now Mumbai’s largest such initiatives,also undertaken by the MMRDA with SPARC.

“Such a project has to be done in mission mode. As there has been no progress even after three to four years,the state government has issued an order asking the MMRDA to undertake the work,” Srinivas said.

He added that SPARC’s involvement will help mobilise support and resolve other issues,including that of eligibility. SPARC is to be paid about Rs 2,300 for every family resettled.

While resettling the slumdwellers was initially termed “critical” for airport infrastructure,including taxiways and parking bays,MIAL is now concentrating on the runway work,terminal building and increasing the capacity of the near-saturation airport despite the constraints.

Arputham,set to start work in May,has conveyed to the MMRDA that the first few months will be spent compiling data. With the monsoon and then corporation elections coming up,no movement of slumdwellers is expected until at least mid-2012,he said.

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