Unable to stop encroachers from gobbling up the city's roads, the BMC will now allow them to eat into taxpayers' money as well. As this paper reported yesterday, the civic body's failure to remove squatters and widen the Santacruz-Chembur Link Road (SCLR) will now cost the city Rs 743 crore, instead of the earlier estimated amount of Rs 18 crore.
After watching the civic body fail for five years to clear encroachment and ease traffic on SCLR, the city's other planning authority, MMRDA, will now build a flyover in order to resolve the issue.
Meanwhile, encroachments are allowed to take root across the city, under flyovers, on street corners and pavements and even on roads. The longer the squatters are allowed to stay, it gets tougher and tougher to remove them. The site gets locked in legal disputes and vote bank politics, and numerous other factors prove to be huge obstacles when it comes to clearing encroachments. It is important that encroachments not be allowed to come up in the first place, so that the struggle to remove them becomes unnecessary. What is one encroachment, soon gives rise to two, then three, multiplying manifold over time. The illegal structures increase in height, with one shanty turning into a slum pocket and then, finally a community, entrenching itself there.
All this results in a waste of time, money and precious resources. Even now, after the MMRDA has declared it will develop a flyover, the BMC is saying that it is still on board with the eviction and widening project. The confusion needs to be cleared and both agencies need to be on the same page. It also points to lessons learnt: that once encroachments are allowed to grow, they become nearly impossible to remove and far too expensive to ignore.
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