Observing the state government has delayed rehabilitation of residents of Kurar village slum in Malad East despite a 1997 Bombay High Court order directing the state government to shift them from the forest land, an independent fact-finding committee on Wednesday stated that the deaths in the wall collapse incident could have been avoided had the slum dwellers been relocated.
On July 2, a part of the 2.3-km boundary wall of BMC’s Malad Hill reservoir — built on the forest land in Kurar — had collapsed on the slum dwellers at Pimpri Pada and Ambedkar Nagar areas, killing 29 and injuring 132 people.
In its report, the committee — comprising activists, Tata Institute of Social Studies (TISS) students, NGO Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao and social groups — has spoken about an urgent need to provide temporary shelter and socio-medical support to those who lost their hut and kin in the wall collapse.
The report stated that the wall was not designed taking into account the topography or the intensity of rainfall that the area experienced. “The wall was poorly designed, it did not have any outlets or holes to allow surface runoff, which would have released the pressure of water that logged behind it. The only outlet for water was a culvert under the asphalt, which was most likely clogged by the vegetation that was washed away and carried by the flow,” it added.
It further said that the slum dwellers continue to live at a risk of contracting infections with no temporary shelter provided by the BMC even a week after the collapse. The report indicated that those affected have lost their livelihood and students are forced to miss school in the absence of books and uniform.
Munni Gaud, whose son Shravan (22) died in the wall collapse, said she had earlier paid Rs 7,000 to the BMC as rehabilitation fees following the HC’s order for alternative accommodation. “Till now, the government has not acted on the court order. Some officials said we will have to move to Mahul. I don’t even know where that is,” she added.
The report claimed that despite a National Green Tribunal order stating that Mahul is “unfit for human habitation”, BMC remains keen on shifting the residents 30 km away from their current home. “It shows their apathy towards urban slum dwellers. It is known that Mahul is polluted,” TISS professor Brinelle D’souza said.
Till Wednesday, the families of 26 deceased have been provided a compensation of Rs 4 lakh out of the Rs 5 lakh announced by the state government. However, compensation to the other three families as well as aid of Rs 5 lakh to be paid by BMC to the families of the 29 deceased remain pending. At least 102 families have been given Rs 5,000 each as maintenance following the collapse.
“What we need is not money or clothes, government should provide us shelter. I live in a private school at night and roam about in the slum all day when classes resume in school,” said Gudiya Kanojia, who lost her 17-month-old daughter Janhvi to the collapse. Gudiya claimed that every day is a struggle due to the lack of food, water and a roof over their head.
Activist Vaishali Janarthanan said a major recommendation in the report is to provide counselling to those who lost their dwellings and loved ones. “The post-traumatic stress disorder has not only affected the survivors, but even their neighbours who have witnessed destruction and deaths. Disaster management guidelines mandate counselling support, but this remains missing,” she added.
The report will be submitted to the BMC, advising the latter to find immediate alternative shelter apart from Mahul, and provide medical support in the slum to ensure infections like leptospirosis do not escalate.
When contacted, P-North ward medical officer Dr Ruchuta Boraskar said slum dwellers have been administered medication to avoid leptospirosis. P-North committee Chairman Vinod Mishra said medical facility has been extended by Kandivali Shatabdi hospital doctors and local ward officers.
“We have advised the BMC commissioner to look for shelter for the survivors within a 3-km radius from this area. If available, these people will be moved nearby. But currently, no such shelter is available,” he added.
Despite repeated attempts, Sanjog Kabare, P-North ward officer, did not respond to calls.