In a tragedy that was simply waiting to happen, an eight-month-old baby and a nine-year-old girl died after a pipeline burst in Bandra east's Indira Nagar slum recently. The 1,450-mm diameter pipeline burst washed away the tenements of the encroachers in the vicinity of the pipeline and locals complained that several people have gone missing since.
It's an extremely unfortunate incident and people who lost their dear ones deserve sympathy. Investigations are underway to determine the cause of the accident. But, there's an urgent need to probe why shanties are built near such water pipelines in the first place. And if that's not dangerous enough, this incident has shown that many of the shanties were built on top of pipelines.
While most slumdwellers complain that lack of living space compels them to reside in such perilous circumstances, in many cases, these people are unaware of the dangers that this decision may pose. Authorities often evict them for their own safety, but they tend to return as they refuse to see sense.
In May, hundreds of families who lived in shanties along the Tansa water pipeline in Vidyavihar resorted to living in makeshift shelters along the road after their homes were demolished. They refused to shift to alternate accommodations saying it was too far and their livelihood would be affected.
Not just that, in 2009, the Bombay HC had also ordered the BMC to keep a 10-m buffer zone around the water pipelines. This diktat had clearly not been adhered to. So, it would first be incumbent to ensure that the buffer zones remain free of shanties the moment they are cleared.
But, before that, the authorities must evict and relocate people from near pipelines to prevent a repeat of the Bandra east disaster.
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