Evicted, homes demolished, some sent far away, others left to perish: Development vs Lives


WP (L) No.3301 of 2017 - Sandeep Shivaji Shirke & Ors. v. Assistant Municipal Commissioner & Ors. And some other petitions filed for similarly displaced persons.
  • Status of the case
  • Court in which the case is filed
Bombay High Court
  • Summary
The Bombay High Court in one of its cases, found that the creation of a 10 metre buffer zone, on either side of major water supply pipelines running through the city, was essential for the safety and security of the citizens in light of the-then recent terrorist attacks in South Mumbai. This finding, in light of the fact that, the existing buffer zone along the water supply pipelines had been encroached upon by slum dwellers.   One such water supply pipeline is the Tansa Pipeline that runs through Santa Cruz (East) to Bandra (East), along which reside thousands of families in their hutments and dwelling units. The creation of this 10 metre buffer zone meant that the these families had to be evicted and their homes demolished.   Following this order of the High Court, the MCGM had decided to conduct this eviction and demolition drive in a phased manner such that the families could be simultaneously properly rehabilitated.   Whether a family was entitled to rehabilitation accommodation was decided by determining whether the family, occupant of the slum, had been residing since before 2000. This determination was being carried out by the Slum Rehabilitation Authority based on the documentation provided by the occupants. The deadline however ruled out several thousands of families.   Meanwhile, as the deadline, 31.12.2017, for this project approached, the MCGM short of achieving its targets, started undertaking mass eviction and demolition drives.   Those found eligible for rehabilitation were being forced to take rehabilitation tenements at Mahul, whether this was as per their lawful entitlement or not. These tenements located some 10 Kms to the south-east of their current accommodation, would result in complete disruption of their livelihoods and education of their children. To add to which, Mahul is one very poorly connected region of the city. Also pertinent is the fact that Mahul is a critically polluted area, where there are several petrochemical refineries and chemical storage units that have been found to emit carcinogenic pollutants. The NGT, Pune, in one of its cases has expressly stated that the area is critically polluted in light of the Volatile Organic Compounds emitted by the industries situated there.   The tenements where the eligible families are being sent, is situated adjacent to the one petroleum refinery and highly volatile chemical storage units.   As per the rehabilitation guidelines, the families that are being evicted as result of projects such as this case, are entitled to be rehabilitated within the same ward, if not the same ward, then the same zone, such that they can continue their livelihood activities without any disruption.   Finding themselves with no other remedy, the families approached the High Court to stay the eviction and demolition drive till they are rehabilitated as per their entitlement and in light of the threat to life owing to the toxic air at Mahul. And to challenge their ineligibility to rehabilitation accommodation. In this petition, as well as those listed below, the High Court has thus far granted an interim stay on demolition drive and the State Government has been asked to come up with a solution by 16th March 2018, on whether these thousands of families are going to be sent to Mahul in spite of the prevailing environmental issues, and if not, how the lawful rehabilitation of these families is going to be undertaken
  • Significance of the case
The State Government accepting that Mahul continues to be critically polluted will open to question, the following,
  1. Whether the refineries and the chemical storage containers have caused an irreversible environmental damage to the area;
  2. Whether pre-existing industries can be allowed to continue in such close proximity to residential areas? Or if so, what would be an appropriate buffer between industrial and residential areas in cities negotiating for space.