Clearing one of the final roadblocks in way of removing encroachments from the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP), the Bombay high court, on Tuesday, permitted the construction of 796 tenements at Chandivli, which will house slum-dwellers who will be displaced from the national park.
The construction of these tenements forms the last leg of a major project that involves setting up 12,124 tenements for slum-dwellers from the national park. This final phase had been held up for a year, with a portion of the land earmarked for rehabilitation occupied by 71 eligible, and several ineligible slum-dwellers.
A division bench of chief justice Mohit Shah and justice Roshan Dalvi directed the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) to initiate the process for evicting ineligible slum-dwellers from the Chandivli property within one week of receipt of a letter from the developer.
The court also directed the SRA to hold a meeting of the 71 eligible slum-dwellers, and move them into the finished tenements.
The court's order came in response to a plea filed by the developer, Sumer Corporation, seeking directions to the SRA to get the land cleared for last phase of the rehabilitation project.
Acting on a public interest litigation filed by the Bombay Environmental Action Group (BEAG), the court had, in 2003, directed the state government to demolish all unauthorised construction inside the Sanjay Gandhi National Park.
From time to time, the court has extended the deadline for removal of the 61,000 slum-dwellers, of which 33,855 are eligible for rehabilitation under the state policy. The last deadline was December 2008. However, according to Gautam Patel, counsel for BEAG, nearly 24,000 shanties, including 8,000 not eligible for rehabilitation, are yet to be demolished.
The state government has decided to rehabilitate all slum-dwellers who have settled in the park prior to January 1, 1995, in accordance with its policy of providing shelter to the city's poor.
As per a report submitted to the high court, so far 58,649 encroachments have been removed from the national park, and 133.87 hectares of land has been reclaimed as forest area.