In a relief to over 5,000 families staying at Mahul, the Bombay High Court on Monday said no more families should be shifted there till alternative accommodation is provided to current residents of Eversmile PAP Colony. The high court also ruled that ₹15,000 per month should be paid as transit rent with security deposit of ₹45,000 to each family within 12 weeks.
A division bench of Chief Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice Bharati Dangre was hearing a plea filed by the Maharashtra government against an order passed by another division bench on April 3, directing it to deposit ₹15,000 per month as rent and an additional ₹ 45,000 as refundable deposit in the bank accounts of thousands of residents and other project affected people (PAP). The court was also hearing the petitioners plea on urging the State and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to relocate families because of various health problems that they are facing for living there.
The PAP colony comprises 72 buildings and 17,205 tenements and is separated from the Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited refinery by a 15-metre road. Within a 300-meter radius of the Eversmile PAP colony, is Sealord Containers – a logistics company serving oil, gas and chemical industries by providing containers and a total of 10 storage terminals for high volumes of chemicals, including hazardous chemicals, which are generally brought in by sea and unloaded at the Pir Pau jetty. Bordering the colony in its southern end is the Tata Power Thermal Energy Plant, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, and the Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited refinery.
The Bench mentioned findings by the National Green Tribunal and relied upon reports submitted from Indian Institute of Technology, Maharashtra Pollution Control Board, Central Pollution Control Board and National Environmental Engineering Research Institute and said, “Mahul continues to be a dangerously polluted region. It is evident that residing in the Eversmile Colony has resulted in the PAPs suffering a variety of serious health issues, including acute respiratory diseases.”
The 71-page-judgement added, “It is therefore evident that residential premises in the vicinity of such refineries can pose multi-faceted security risks, which are not only restricted to the health of the residents nearby and the absolute liability imposed on the refineries, but a terrorist attack using these refineries as targets could lead to colossal destruction within the city, that could debilitate a large number of people living around the Chembur region.”
The court also said, “it is noteworthy that in order to quell the concerns about security within the PAP Complex, the State and BMC had planned to allot 2000 police officers and constables homes in the Eversmile Complex. These officers were intended to be deputed within the Complex to oversee the safety of the neighbouring industries and refineries. However, to this day not a single police officer has been ready to accept the homes allotted to them in Eversmile Complex due to the fact that they share the same concerns about safety and the exposure to the air pollution in the region.”