Many localities in the city face the problem of poor and contaminated water supply, but the M-east ward has a more basic problem: The vast majority of households here – they are slums – don’t have water connections at all.
The ward has one of the highest populations in the city, but majority of the slum-dwellers live in degrading conditions with no access to basic amenities, often leading to under-nourishment, poor health and early mortality.
The biggest problem for most slum-dwellers is that their homes are illegal, that is, they have not been built before 1995.
The state government’s policy restricts urban local bodies, which includes the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), to providing civic services only to slums built before 1995. As a result, residents of illegal slums have to get their water from other sources, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation.
If you live in a residential complex, you pay Rs 3.50 for 1,000 litres of water. A slum-dweller with no legal connection has to pay at least 10 times this amount.
Sitaram Shelar, member of the Pani Hakk Sammitti, which is fighting for universal access to water, said: “It’s shameful that despite having enough water, the BMC denies it to slum-dwellers. Denying a human of water amounts to denial of life and dignity.”
Water is a big source of business here. “A slum-dweller buys water from another slum-dweller who has a legal connection or from organised groups that sell water. Though the BMC gets no revenue, local officials and corporators benefit,” said a resident of Sathe Nagar slums, requesting anonymity.