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Thane reclamation: creek breeds slum

A two-room house in New Saiba Nagar in the middle of the Thane creek for Rs 2.5 lakh was a good deal for Hina Jaiswal and her family.

Published: April 12, 2013 2:08:40 am

A two-room house in New Saiba Nagar in the middle of the Thane creek for Rs 2.5 lakh was a good deal for Hina Jaiswal and her family. Soon,her brother-in-law too shifted to the newly built slum. In the last four months,the extended Jaiswal family bought as many as seven structures.

The collapse of a seven-storey building in Mumbra last Thursday that claimed 74 lives is a shocking reminder of how illegal structures constructed within months dominate the densely-populated city.

In Manisha Nagar slums in Kalwa,thousands of shanties have illegally sprung up. People here live in the constant fear of flooding during monsoons,health hazards,and sudden demolition.

While Thane district has over 6,000 hectares of mangrove cover,the areas in and around the creek do not fall under protected forest.

“When the areas are marked as protected by the government,forest authorities can initiate legal action against encroachers. Until then,it is for the civic authorities to look into it,” said N Vasudevan,Chief Conservator of Forests.

R A Rajeev,Municipal Commissioner,Thane,did not respond to calls.

Vasudevan said the state government had decided to include all mangrove covers in Thane in the protected category. The forest department can then take action.

Owning a house in the middle of Thane creek costs not more than Rs 3 lakh. Old residents

The Indian Express spoke to say the slums originated two decades ago. But they have expanded manifold in just the last couple of years. New shanties are built almost every other day,destroying one of the richest mangrove covers in the state.

Kalpana Giri’s family,which migrated to the city a decade ago,had been shifting from one mohalla to another,until one Shyam bhai found them a 10×10-sq-ft house for Rs 2.5 lakh. This came with a toilet service,also built on the mangrove.

“At my earlier house,we had to walk almost a kilometer to access toilets. Here,the local corporator has built a two-storey toilet for us,just across the road,” she says.

The swampy slum area — through which passes the main pipeline supplying water to Thane city — is bursting at its seams. Most of those living in Kalwa,around the network of pipelines,have access to illegal electricity,water connections and toilets. While there is no apparent road access to the slum,the pipeline serves as one.

The pipeline goes unmanned,making it easy for locals to break it and access water. “There has been a leakage in the water line. We have filling water for the past three weeks. But if this leakage were to increase,we fear our shanty could get washed off,” said Rehnuma bi,who washed dirty clothes beneath the pipeline.

In October 2005,Bombay High Court banned cutting of mangroves in the state. However,there is no stopping slumlords. Reclamation is commonplace. Slumlords and locals fill up wetlands and flatten the surface. Tin sheet houses are built in no time after the slumlords “approve”.

Civic authorities have not visited the place for eight-nine months and no structures have been bulldozed.

“Last we had a demolition drive in July. That too was stopped since it was raining heavily,” said Nurul Hooda Kazi,one of the old slumdwellers who claims to own over a dozen houses in the area,all given out on rent. But there is a lurking fear of demolition now.

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