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Maharashtra govt starts to legalize 49-acre slum built on Dahisar wetlands

Comments Off on Maharashtra govt starts to legalize 49-acre slum built on Dahisar wetlands   |   January 25, 2014    11:20am   |Contributed by manoja

MUMBAI: In a move that has environmentalists crying foul, the state government has started the process of regularizing the massive Ganpat Patil Nagar slum colony in Dahisar built on nearly 2.57 lakh square metres or 49 acres of land, which the Centre had described as wetlands in 2011. At 49 acres, it is twice the size of Oval Maidan and Shivaji Park.

The state’s move comes despite a Bombay high court order of December 2013, which directed it to prohibit any construction or reclamation of wetlands across the city.

A Dahisar citizens’ group New Link Road Residents’ Forum learnt of the plan through a January 3 notice issued by deputy collector (encroachment) Dilip Gatte inviting objections and suggestions from the public.

Stalin D, project director with environment NGO Vanashakti, said, “The high court had ordered that all wetlands must be free from construction and there should be no reclamation. It had further directed the government to inform all planning authorities not to sanction construction plans in these areas. Any attempt to destroy mangroves and carry out construction will invite contempt of court. Hope the authorities realize this.”

According to the Maharashtra Slum Areas (Improvement, Clearance and Redevelopment) Act, 1971, only those slums that have sprung up before the cut-off date of January 1, 1995, are eligible for free housing. In case of the Dahisar colony, just 200 units of the approximately 8,000 hutments fit the eligibility criterion.

Dahisar residents say the move is aimed at vote bank politics in an election year. “Considering that the balance 7,800 families constitute a major vote bank, the government has initiated this plan to regularize the colony. This prime locality will subsequently become eligible for the slum rehabilitation scheme with private developers,” says a resident. They will become eligible for free housing with the centre and state sharing a portion of the cost through the Rajiv Awaas Yojana (RAY), the central government urban renewal scheme.

Additional collector (encroachment) Avinash Dhakne told TOI the slums are being regularized in accordance with Section 4(1) of the Slum Act. “Provisions of the Maharashtra Slum Improvement Act say if slum dwellers live in unhygienic conditions, the government is empowered to declare that area as a slum and provide civic amenities irrespective of who the land owner is.”

When asked why the same yardstick not applied to the balance 60% of the city’s slum population that lives in unhygienic conditions, Dhakne said, “I was asked by the state housing department to initiate the process of regularizing this slum area. My department has no role to play in decisions the government takes in future to allow a slum rehabilitation scheme on the plot, or extend eligibility criteria for legalizing slums. If these slums have come up post 1995, it is the civic body’s duty to evict them,” said Dhakne and added that he has undertaken several demolition drives.

Incidentally, in 2003, the civic body had demolished nearly 3,000 structures in the Ganpat Patil Nagar slum over three days amidst stone-pelting by locals, who had been instigated by politicians. Residents said the slum dwellers had purportedly shown a proof of residence as prior to 1995. An inquiry by the then suburban collector, though, showed up that all were bogus.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/Maharashtra-govt-starts-to-legalize-49-acre-slum-built-on-Dahisar-wetlands/articleshow/29271919.cms

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