Toxic Mahul too dangerous for quarantined Mumbaikars
Govandi residents moved to a quarantine facility at Videocon Society in Mahul complain of unfit living conditions, constant dust, lack of running water and shabby toilets
On April 3, welfare groups across the city, along with medical professionals and lawyers, issued a press release demanding the immediate withdrawal of the civic body's plans to convert any building in Mahul into a quarantine centre. They cited health concerns, due to the neighbourhood's high pollution levels. And yet, a month on, nearly 30 residents of Panchsheel chawl in Govandi's Lumbini Baug have been shifted to a makeshift quarantine facility at Videocon Society, Mahul. The residents had come in contact with a 55-year-old woman from their basti, whose cause of death was posthumously ruled as COVID-19.
The quarantine centre, where residents of Chembur's Cheetah Camp have also been shifted, houses approximately 100 people. The building's first and second floors are currently being used as a quarantine facility, with not more than two people to a room. The chawl residents say that the place lacks basic amenities such as running and drinking water as well as the presence of permanent medical staff. The premises is also covered with dust, has shabby sanitation facilities. Further, there has been no segregation between children and adults so far.
Smoke coming from a nearby oil refinery pollutes the area's air
The April 3 press note states that Mahul has been declared "uninhabitable" by at least two Indian courts "given the toxic environment due to the presence of polluting industries."
Citing hazardous air quality conditions, it further reads: "Mahul is completely unfit for human habitation, much less for treatment and care. To establish a quarantine centre in Mahul would not be beneficial from the health point of view, but would prove detrimental towards efforts taken by MCGM to control this pandemic."
Residents say the water is dirty and the toilets not fit for use. They argue that they were better off at their chawl
A 22-year-old resident of Lumbini Baug says, "One of the main problems is the amount of dust. If there was any running water, we ourselves would have washed the premises. This dust can cause sneezing and coughing among people who have allergies or weak immune systems."
He adds, "There is no running water in the toilets. At home, we were at least taking our own Vitamin C tablets, maintain a healthy diet, and eating nutritious food. We expected basic facilities at the centre. There is also no permanent medical staff present here. We have not received any therapy or medical treatment yet."
Advocate Lara Jesani, one of the signatories to the April 3 press note, says: "It is dangerous for people to be quarantined in Mahul because of the high level of pollution in the area. The place is congested and poorly planned and therefore creates health hazards for people who may already have a weak immune system, making it harder for them to cope with the virus."
M East Ward Assistant Commissioner Sudhanshu Dwivedi refused to comment or discuss the issue. Bilal Khan of the Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan says, "In cases filed by us, the High Court has passed two orders declaring Mahul polluted and unfit for habitation and hence, directed the government to shift the Mahul residents to an environmentally safe place. Coronavirus causes severe acute respiratory syndrome."
The faulty design and poor sanitation of the Mahul buildings [as established from CSA report] can also result in further spread of infection, thereby endangering the residents. "Without trying other abundantly available options it is shocking that the government has sent people to such a toxic environment and that too, as a quarantine measure."
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