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14,000 shanties near pipelines yet to be razed

With eye on civic elections, BMC starts demolishing illegal structures constructed around and on water pipelines, which lead to contamination and water theft

Wanting to have a nearly perfect record before the forthcoming civic elections, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has finally initiated a crackdown against slums that had and are mushrooming around pipelines providing water to the island city.


Going, going gone? Encroachment along the water pipelines near
Mahim causeway. File pic


The city gets its water supply from four lakes -- Tansa, Bhatsa, Vaitarna and Vihar that are located in Thane district. When shanties are constructed over water pipelines, contamination and water theft is rampant, as slum dwellers tamper with them and draw water for personal use. Often, leaks go undetected due to heavy slum cover. Hence, the primary objective of this demolition drive is to secure the pipelines, prevent contamination and theft of water and free the encroached land. The entire project (demolition and rehabilitation) is worth Rs 80 crore.

Initially, the drive was supposed to begin in April. However, citing examination period, it was postponed but was resumed by June-end, soon after the Supreme Court's order. Under this project, slum dwellers living within 10 metres of a pipeline would be evicted.

According to BMC's initial survey, there are 15,789 illegal structures constructed alongside water pipelines. Of these, only 7,800 huts are entitled for rehabilitation in Mankhurd, as they were built prior to 1995. Overall, the drive is expected to be carried out across nine wards in the city and has been divided into Phase I and II.

Insiderspeak
"Keeping in mind their vote banks, all the politicos were supporting these slum dwellers. But they are forgetting that people receive contaminated water due to pilferage done by these very dwellers. Besides, corporation loses water due to thefts. They (politicians) are preventing the common people from receiving clean and potable water," said an official from BMC's Hydraulic Department.

In the recently concluded demolition drive at Mahim and Dharavi, the BMC razed nearly 1,878 hutments out of which 1,113 hutments are eligible for rehabilitation in the G North ward. Similarly, it has started the drive in S ward and so far, has demolished 128 shanties in Bhandup. These two wards fall in Phase I.

Officialspeak
Additional Municipal Commissioner (Water Supply), Rajiv Jalota, said, "There were a few corporators who had asked us to postpone the drive due to exams and other such reasons. However, we can't disobey SC's order. The demolitions would be done in the next 10-12 days. The entire work should be completed by the year-end." 
Corporatorspeak
It was learnt that BJP Corporator, Ashish Shelar, along with other corporators had requested the officials to stop the demolition, stating that it would hamper students' academic career. "We support the people's plea and had requested the officials to postpone their drive. But the officials told us that it is the SC's order and they could do nothing about it."

In the second phase, the civic body has planned to carry out the drive in seven other areas, including Ghatkopar, Mulund, Chembur, Andheri (E), Matunga, Dadar (E), Bandra (E), Santacruz (E) and Kurla, and is expected to commence in the coming year.

Fact file
Mahim and Dharavi areas house 1,400 slums around and on water pipelines. During the demolition drive that would be carried out in G North and S wards, nearly 1,878 hutments will be razed. Out of these, 1,113 hutments are entitled for rehabilitation in Mankhurd.

15,789
Number of hutments that will be removed

Rs 80 cr
Cost of the demolition and rehabilitation project

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