A year and a half ago, SUNDAY MiD DAY highlighted how 20 allegedly illegal shops, built on the stormwater drain running from the Vile Parle Helibase to Juhu Beach, were responsible for the flooding of the western suburbs, including the infamous Milan Subway. Now, a High Court order has set a January 31, 2013 deadline for the civic authorities to get their act together.
Ironically, stores selling luxury goods are classified as huts in government records. They are allegedly responsible for strangulating a 30-metre stormwater drain to a little over one meter. The said structures, apparently, are flouting the observations of BRIMSTOWAD (Brihanmumbai Stormwater Disposal System) Project, (available with SMD), which the BMC initiated after the flooding on 26/11. The project clearly states that the minimum width of a stormwater drain has to be maintained at 14 metres to curtail flooding.
The court order, issued by Honorable Chief Justice Anoop Mohta (SMD has a copy) categorically states that once the appeals are heard and decided by the Administrator and Divisional Commissioner, the Deputy Collector (Encroachment and Removal) as well as by the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM), the unauthorised structures should be removed within one month from the decision of the appellate authority.
The court order also mentions a report submitted by PR Rokade, deputy collector (Encroachment and Removal) on behalf of the Collector, Mumbai, which categorically states that out of 20 disputed structures only six were found to have documentary proof prior to January 1, 2000. It adds that the MCGM was informed accordingly by Annexure II dated August 31, 2010 and now the onus was on them to take action and provide alternate accommodation to the eligible structure holders.
“It is ironic that in spite of such stringent remarks by the Collector’s office, no action was initiated for over two years. The very fact that these structures are built on prime land in Juhu, yielding a monthly rent of up to seven lakhs per shop, appears to be the reason for this laxity,” alleged local activist Anil Nair, who has been filing fact-finding RTIs. Nair further alleged that this was a case of slums being converted into massive illegal structures, constructed on government land.
The buck was being passed even as SMD approached Uhhas Mahale, executive engineer, H/west, who claimed to be out of town and referred the matter to his colleague SB Baviskar, assistant engineer maintenance, who in turn claimed to have little knowledge on the subject. He asked this reporter to contact sub-engineer Manjrekar, who confirmed that the demolishing work had been initiated in the last few days on the basis of High Court orders.
PR Rokade was unavailable for comment.