Move Mahul residents out, says IIT report

Living conditions in Mahul are bad, and the entire population needs to be shifted out of there, according to a report prepared by the Indian Institute of Technology and submitted by the State government before the Bombay High Court (HC) on Friday.

Nearly 5,000 families who were living near the Tansa pipeline have been relocated to Mahul over the years as their houses were demolished. Some of them approached the HC in 2018 demanding they be moved out of the area due to high air pollution levels. On the court’s direction, the State government had directed IIT Bombay to carry out ‘a survey of various infrastructural facilities to be provided to the PAPs (project-affected persons)’. An interim report was submitted in December, which pointed to contaminated drinking water and extreme air pollutant concentration levels. A draft final report was submitted by the IIT team to the State government on March 4.

The project team conducted a detailed survey in Mahul, studying the socio-economic impacts due to relocation, pollution and problems with amenities and location of the area.

The report includes a ‘list of diseases after moving to Mahul’. The maximum number of respondents (204) complained of skin infection, while 129 complained of fever, cold and cough. As an impact of these health problems, 200 respondents complained of loss of wages, followed by loss of jobs (146).

The report also states that the distance between buildings in Mahul was less, due to which there was not enough sunlight or ventilation. The maximum permissible density for a low-income housing scheme as per the National Building Code of India is 500 tenements per hectare. The figure for Mahul is 1,327 per hectare. It has 0.19 sq m open space per capita as against the NBCI norm of 3.

Around 80% respondents said that when they seek medical help for an illness, the doctors cite pollution as the cause. Asked if they were willing to stay in Mahul after repairs were made to the buildings and infrastructure, most of the respondents said no.

“In general, the overall quality of life is severely affected and extremely poor for the residents. The conditions, especially relating to air pollution, sewage overflow, sanitary fixtures and water contamination in addition to the possibility of industrial disasters are not conducive for human dignity, safety, security and decent living,” said the report.

The report also recommends structural demolition of some floors and buildings to allow for better air flow and sunlight, while recognising that these repairs will not solve the problem of pollution. “Since the large scale industries and refineries in the area that cause environmental damage and pollution cannot be shifted from this place, to prevent further harm to lives and livelihood, there seems no option other than to shift the entire population or sections of the population to other places,” it said.

Bilal Khan, member of Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan, which has been associated with the struggle to shift Mahul residents, said the organisation was satisfied with the report. “This is the 132nd day of our protest where people are still living on the footpaths of Vidyavihar. We are hoping the State government takes note of this,” said Mr. Khan.

The State government has been given time till Wednesday to respond.

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Printable version | Dec 3, 2021 4:33:46 PM |

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