As heavy rains lash the city, over 1.25 lakh people staying in 327 slum pockets are living in the shadow of danger.
According to the civic body, there are 22,483 hutments located in landslide- prone areas, most of which are perched on hillocks in Antop Hill, Kurla, Ghatkopar, Bhandup, Mazgaon, Vikhroli, Byculla and Kanjurmarg.
On Wednesday, three people from one of such hutments died in a landslide at Antop Hill, and according to authorities, more casualties are possible in the coming days.
According to the Mumbai Slum Improvement Board, the immediate priority is to install boulder nettings at these places.
“These steel nettings can help contain the damage and also maintain the ecological balance,” said Anand Rayate, chief officer, MISB. “However, we need to move out at least about 50,000 people from 10,000 shanties to install them,” he added.
The initiative is similar to the one taken by the Konkan Railway Corporation, which has put up this netting cover along the slopes to prevent bounders from falling on railway tracks.
According to Rajesh Singh, who resides i n Kasaiwada slum at Kurla, they cannot afford to leave their homes. “We are living here as we have no other alternative,” said Singh.
Singh pays a rent of Rs1,000 per month for his 100sq-ft shelter.
The board has been constructing retaining walls for years, and this time too, it has received requests for 350 such walls. However, Rayate discounts the efficacy of retaining walls, saying: “We have seen that people have set up slums even on these retaining walls.
In addition, since our walls do not exceed nine metres in height, they cannot stop huge boulders.”
Eminent housing activist and architect PK Das said lopsided development is responsible for the mess.
“There should be comprehensive slum redevelopment and a rehabilitation master plan. Based on this, work at the most prone sites should be taken up on priority basis,” he said.
“What we are witnessing is just a knee-jerk reaction after every untoward incident,” said Das.
According to residents, it is low rents in these risky areas which attract poor people.
For instance, in Antop Hill where a shanty fetches a minimum rent of Rs3,000, those under hillocks come with a price tag of only Rs1,000 to Rs1,500. “Since there is an element of danger, rents are low here,” said Sulaiman Shaikh, a resident.