Researched with the help of UDRI and originally published in Indian Architect & Builder Magazine’s Oct’18 issue, this article sheds light on how people of surrounding settlements are being affected by Tansa Pipeline project in Mumbai.
Within the fabric of Mumbai through the years, there have been several instances of displacement of people due to development projects, redevelopment of land, security etc. One such project is the demolition of settlements along the 160 km long Tansa Pipeline, a major source of water supply for Mumbai where several settlements had developed in approximately the last 50 years. As per an order issued by the Bombay High Court in 2009, the settlements along the pipeline are being demolished in order to ensure the safety and security of the pipeline.
The MCGM, Mumbai’s governing body, commissioned a 300 crore project titled ‘Green Wheels along Blue Lines’ in order to secure the 10m buffer from the pipeline in order to safeguard the pipeline. Tansa Pipeline is a major pipeline of water supply in Mumbai. Due to the development of informal settlements above and around the pipeline, there have been frequent bursts leading to loss of life and property. The judgment was well-intentioned and a step in the right direction, but the rehabilitation conducted post demolition was disastrous.
One of the settlements that were demolished along the Tansa pipeline and the focus of our study for our academic project in college was Indira Gandhi Nagar situated in Bandra East, H ward of Mumbai. 500 meters of the Tansa Pipeline passes through Indira Gandhi Nagar. Within this settlement, on top of the pipelines, 3050 residents (Census of India 2011) resided in 796 informal hutments (Alap, 2018). In 2017, all settlements on the pipeline were demolished as per the HC order but only 155 structures were given rehabilitation so far. At junctions along the main pipeline, water was seen to be siphoned through subsidiary connections, tapping the leaks and perforations in the main water pipe through smaller rubber hoses.
Water supply was scarce and the citizens had taken the supply of water supply infrastructure in their own hands. But this also led to bursts sometimes within the pipeline.
In 2018 when we visited the site post-demolition, the residents who weren’t eligible for rehabilitation had resorted to staying in plastic shanties along the naked pipeline.
The residents of the settlements along the Tansa Pipeline are being rehabilitated in accordance to the Section 33(10) clause 3.11 (PAP rehabilitation), of the Draft Development Control Regulations (DCRs) of 1991 and Maharashtra Slum Areas (Improvement, Clearance, and Redevelopment) Act, 1971. Section 33(10) directs the rehabilitation process of slum dwellers that have been evicted during the process of developing the land. It directs the various criteria through which slums can be denoted, the rights of hutment dwellers and the eligibility criteria for the same. It also specifies the need for a specific document known as a Photo pass, which is issued only to those residents whose structures have come up before January 2000.
Mahul is one of the sites where the displaced from Tansa Pipeline were rehabilitated. There are a few other sites like Chembur and Vashi Naka. The tenements are flanked by large chemical industries such as Tata Power, Bharat Petroleum (BPCL) Refineries and treatment facilities
The tenements consist of 72 buildings and 17025 dwelling units which aim to provide housing for approximately 86,000 inhabitants
The unkempt tenements have malfunctioning lifts, water shortage and electricity cuts from time to time. The 25 sqm houses are cramped, with only a single source of ventilation, inadequate lighting, and families of 5-10 cramped in a single apartment.
For most of the residents, the new accommodation has led to a feeling of being short-changed. The lack of employment in these areas has been a serious setback to their savings and income. That coupled with the low frequency of public transportation such BEST buses that lead to their original place of work, has led to about 50 % of people rendered unemployed in the settlement. Furthermore, people have suffered from skin and lung diseases due to the close proximity of the chemical refineries. Their limbs have suffered rashes. The elderly suffer from lung infections.
Around 150 residents of Mahul gaon formed a human chain at Vidyavihar to protest the toxic environment at Mahul rehabilitation tenements.
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) in 2015 had directed the environment department to probe these complaints and confirmed the allegations by residents. According to the representative at the H (East) Ward office, there have been several writ petitions at the Bombay High Court for better rehabilitation than Mahul. There are talks of new plots of land opening up in the new Development Plan 2034, and after a long sustained process, there are talks of the residents of Mahul being shifted to Borivali, Kurla, and Ghatkopar.
The MCGM is managing the construction of the upcoming cycle track along the Tansa pipeline along with private parties. Corporators are backing out of the Tansa cycle track project due to the unfeasibility of the project (Mumbai Mirror, 2018) and its high projected cost of 11 crore per km.
The Tansa cycle track, with its Bollywood walk, Mumbai book route and artistically painted pipelines with its astronomical cost seems like a waste of public money as compared to its monetary utilization for adequate rehabilitation.
A systemic change needs to be brought about in how we prioritize the growth and development of our city vis-à-vis the quality of life of all its citizens. It is important that essential services and infrastructure which are basic rights to life are provided first, and only once these are in place, should additional projects be implemented which can upgrade and complement existing facilities.
As a number of citizen groups and government bodies attempt to realign and reshape the development of the city of Mumbai; already buckling under the volatile real estate sector and high land prices, settlements like Indira Gandhi Nagar are caught in the continuous tussle.
How can we justify certain infrastructure development projects within the city in relation to the loss of settlements and standard of living? Of necessary infrastructure projects, it is possible to envision an inclusive and effective rehabilitation scheme that can effectively manage to safeguard our infrastructure and provide a comprehensive rehabilitation action plan for the PAPs, but that will require precise planning of several factors such as time and a clear and balanced allocation of funds, managing resources, extensive prior research before rehabilitation etc.
Furthermore, well-intentioned policies have been inadequately implemented. Strong implementation of a holistic rehabilitation policy, stringent quality control and an answerable body of a panel of experts headlining the rehabilitation process is a must.
A successful rehabilitation policy can be implemented by a successful collaboration between the government body, grassroots NGOs, developers, and the PAPs.