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First 1,000 families to shift from Mumbai airport slums

More than four years after Mumbai International Airport Ltd (MIAL) took charge of operating the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport

Written by Kavitha Iyer | Mumbai |
October 17, 2010 6:16:18 am

More than four years after Mumbai International Airport Ltd (MIAL) took charge of operating the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA) and drew a plan to reclaim land encroached by slums,the first batch of 1,000 families are set to move out of their shanties and into apartments constructed in the central suburbs of Kurla next month.

The move is part of an ambitious proposal to clear the airport’s 276 acres of encroached land of the 85,000 families who have made it their home for years. It is already behind schedule after many false starts,contributing to CSIA becoming one of the most congested airports in the region,even as Maharashtra struggles to secure environmental approvals for the second airport in Navi Mumbai.

With 85,000 shanties to be relocated eventually,this is the first step in what will be Mumbai’s biggest slum resettlement project,considerably larger than the rehabilitation of 34,000 families under the Mumbai Urban Transport Project and the Mumbai Urban Infrastructure Project in 2004-05.

Around 17,020 apartments,measuring 269 sq ft each,are in various stages of construction in Kurla (West),and most are expected to be ready by March 2011.

They are distributed across 48 buildings,about 3 km from the airport slums,and closely resemble the Mankhurd and Jogeshwari rehabilitation sites for MUTP and MUIP. The buildings stand in tight rows,within earshot of each other.

Each building houses about 350 flats,with 30 flats to a floor,and two elevators for access.

“We hope 1,000 families can move in by November 15,another 3,000 by December. The balance will move in phases,” says Sarang Wadhavan,MD of HDIL,contracted by MIAL to re-house the slumdwellers. “It’s a 53-acre plot,65 per cent of which is being used for the rehabilitation buildings,10 per cent for amenities.”

The amenities,he says,include a hospital,a police station,a post-office,a dispensary,child care centres and welfare centres,which are all still “under construction”.

HDIL’s contract involves TDR,or Transfer of Development Rights,under which a developer gets development rights certificates which can be used north of the plot or tenements he cedes to the government. Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation sources said HDIL has been granted TDR for 5,45,047 sq m of land and constructed space on the Kurla plot,and more TDR will be given as the project progresses.

With just 1,976 acres of land at its disposal — Delhi,Hyderabad and Bangalore airports all have more than double that — the Mumbai airport is severely constrained for space. Besides,the slums compromise the security of the airport.

Of the 31 slum pockets that have occupied the 276 acres of airport land,14 were identified for the first phase. Surveys to identify the families had to be abandoned due to stiff opposition from residents,who were backed by local politicians. With long and slow negotiations finally leading to a reconciliation,a fresh round of surveys began this week.

Besides the 17,020 families that will be relocated to Kurla (West),land has been located for shifting another 7,000 families to Kurla (East). A hunt is on for land for the remaining 61,000 families.

Local Member of Parliament Priya Dutt says those set to move to Kurla are satisfied,since the rehabilitation site is only two to three km from their current addresses. “Even as a Member of Parliament,I haven’t seen any clarity on which areas have to be taken up next and where those people will be moved,” says Dutt. “I am clear about one thing. People are not against development,but people need to be rehabilitated.”

Among the first ones who will move next month is Jaya Jadhav,28,a balwadi (child care centre) worker in a nearby municipality school. She spent her entire childhood hearing aircraft land or take off,and wants a different childhood for her children. “I want my children to grow up in a better locality. However,their schools,my work are here. How can I shift everything to any other place?” she asks.

Similar doubts plague Jadhav’s neighbour Malini Mane,who points out that similar surveys in the past had led to nothing other than numbers being scribbled on their walls. “The government has promised us this time that the house we get will be in the same locality. If that doesn’t happen,residents will not like it,” says Mane.

(With inputs from SWATEE KHER)

BOX

May 2006: MIAL takes charge of Mumbai airport,draws up plan involving 14 critical slum pockets to be moved out at an early date.

Late 2006: MMRDA and a private firm initiate a plane-table survey and socio-economic survey of the slums. The reports are abandoned after about 25,000 homes are surveyed.

October 2007: HDIL receives a contract from MIAL to undertake the rehabilitation of slumdwellers on airport land,from survey to moving of residents.

January 2008: HDIL identifies and purchases 53 acres of land in Kurla,owned once by Premier Automobiles.

Late 2008: Construction starts.

October 2010: 1,000 flats of 269 sq ft each ready for rehabilitating slumdwellers.

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