The Bombay High Court on Tuesday came down heavily on the state government for filing an “unsatisfactory affidavit” stating that it is not possible to rehabilitate Project Affected Persons (PAPs) along the Tansa pipeline in the city “due to non-availability” of tenements. In 2009, the Bombay High Court had ordered the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to remove all the encroachments near the Tansa pipeline. While some huts were demolished, some are still left. After few orders were passed, the state government decided to allot tenements at Mahul, Chembur to the civic body for accommodating the occupants of structures, which were existing as on January 1, 2000.
According to the affidavit filed by state Chief Secretary, Sumit Mullick, a survey conducted in 2007, showed that huts were located within 10 metres on either side of the 80-km-long water trunk mainline, and there were 15,789 encroachers. Out of these, the BMC has demolished 11,696 structures. There are in all 9,231 eligible PAPs out of which, 7,249 have been rehabilitated and only 1,982 eligible encroachers are yet to be rehabilitated.
The affidavit further says that the issue of rehabilitation of the remaining PAPs of the Tansa pipeline project is possible only at Mahul. An order was passed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT), Pune in December 2015, “…there is a perceptible threat to health of residents of village Mahul and Ambapada due the prevailing air quality in the area.” The affidavit further says that on the issue of some other location for PAPs, “…it is not possible to rehabilitate the eligible encroachers at Marol and Dindoshi as these plots are already encumbered with slum dwellings nor is it possible to rehabilitate them in any other part of the city due to non-availability of PAP tenements in mass scale.”
The affidavit said that the state government will file a review petition before the NGT, Pune, expeditiously to recall its order bringing to their notice the developments that have occurred after the order was passed in 2015, and that the locality at Mahul is fit for human habitation. The bench, after going through the affidavit, said that the affidavit filed by Chief Secretary is “without complete application of mind.”
The court was taken aback with the Chief Secretary’s statement that there is no place to accommodate the PAPs. Justice Oka said the division bench has said that the encroachers pose serious threat to the pipeline, which supplies water to the population of around 1.80 crores and “still you ( government) are casual” about this. The court also said it appears that the state is not interested in implementation of courts order.
The court, in its order, directed the Chief Secretary to file a fresh affidavit, stating the affidavit filed was not satisfactory. The affidavit also says that state government has taken steps to see that 80 km pipeline is protected and for that total of 40,515 metre compound wall is decided to be constructed out of which 10,245 metre is constructed.