Residents of Dahisar reminisce about the time when the suburb was known for being peaceful, quiet and green. Watching it being slowly taken over by slums and illegal shanties, they now fear the suburb could soon become home to a slum cluster larger than Dharavi.
Around half of the R-north ward, which spreads over 18 sq km, falls under the Coastal Regulation Zone. In 1995, about 450 slums existed in the ward. In the last 15 years, the number has increased to more than 6,000, posing a challenge to citizens and the civic body alike.
Citizen groups, such as the New Link Resident’s Forum in Dahisar have made numerous complaints to authorities.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) too has carried out several demolition drives, but in vain, as the shanties inevitably crop up again. Moreover, many of them have come up in areas that fall under the CRZ and have reduced the green cover in the ward.
Residents feel that the slums are being protected by politicians, who view them as a vote bank. They are opposed to the state’s suggestion of increasing the cut off date for regularisation of slums to 2000, which is currently being considered by the Supreme Court. If this happens, many of the structures will be deemed legal, and the slums will be redeveloped or rehabilitated.
“Almost all parties use these slums as a vote bank. They provide all civic amenities to them. In the process, they are encouraging illegal slums,” said Harish Pandey, an independent candidate, who is contesting the upcoming polls from ward number one.
Residents of the ward are also troubled by the pathetic condition of roads in the ward.
“It’s good that the BMC has constructed new pavements with paver blocks. However, these have not been laid properly, resulting in sinking of paver blocks and uneven surfaces,” said Dr SP Mathew, a practicing doctor and member of the New Link Residents’ Forum.
The hawker menace is another problem in the ward. Most footpaths have been taken over by illegal hawkers.
Moreover, with not a single municipal market in the ward, while inconvenienced by their presence, also rely on them for their basic requirements.