Do slums damage eco-system? SRA proposes study to find out

  • Kunal Purohit, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Mar 27, 2016 23:44 IST
The Slum Rehabilitation Authority has decided to study the impact of the city’s slums on the environment in a bid to fast-track environmental clearances for slum redevelopment projects in Mumbai. (Hindustan Times)

The Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) wants to find out if the city’s slums are damaging the city’s eco-system.

In a possibly controversial move, the SRA has now decided to study the impact of the city’s slums on the environment, especially in ecologically sensitive areas.

In a bid to fast-track environmental clearances for slum redevelopment projects in the city, the SRA now wants to conduct ‘Slum Impact Assessment’ studies as a counter to the ‘environmental impact assessment’ reports that are mandatory for projects of any kind to be granted permissions from environmental agencies. These studies will be conducted for slum clusters in the buffer zone around the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, followed by slums on Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) lands.

Read: 871 hectares of land in Mumbai lost to slums

Academicians and activists, among others, believe that neglect and apathy by the government have kept the slums in these conditions. Now, the SRA’s move to record the detrimental impact of the slum is to, in a subtle manner, blame the slum for ‘pollution’.

The SRA, however, said such reports which detail a slum’s impact on the environment will convey a ‘realistic’ picture of the slum’s conditions.

“Often, when we apply for green clearances for slum projects, the environment impact assessment says what the adverse impact of the project will be once the slum is redeveloped. However, there are no reports which detail the impact of the slum in its current form. Hence, to arrive at an objective judgement, we need to look at any negative impact the slum is having on the environment,” said Aseem Gupta, chief executive officer of the SRA.

Gupta said such an exercise was necessary to determine the environmental feasibility of a project.

The city’s slums have been left lacking in basic amenities such as water supply, adequate toilets, sewage connections and organised waste disposal systems. Only 2% of all slums in the city have a sewage network. The 2009 Human Development Index showed that on an average 81 people shared a toilet seat in the city’s clusters, of which only 14% even had water in the toilets. With such poor civic amenities, can a slum be blamed for its ‘negative’ impact, ask many.

“The SRA’s mindset that only redevelopment can solve infrastructural deficiencies is wrong. It should look at improving these amenities in the slum,” said Bilal Khan, activist with the Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan, a movement which fights for the right to affordable housing for the urban poor.

Pointing to the largely non-existent and unorganised solid waste and sewage collection facilities, Gupta said, “Because of poor civic facilities, slum clusters often cause damage to the environment. Such studies will be able to record the damage so as to push the case for speedy redevelopment permissions.”

The author tweets as @kunalpurohit

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