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Living on the banks of disaster

mumbai Updated: Jan 23, 2012 01:42 IST
Bhavika Jain
Bhavika Jain
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

If the civic body had acted on the incessant complaints made by Asif Sheikh about an illegal building coming up in Qureshi Nagar, the lives of two children could have been saved.

When Rafiq Estate, a four-storeyed illegal building collapsed in July, following heavy showers, two children were killed, highlighting the issue of illegal constructions and encroachments in the ward, most of which are shielded by political parties.

One of the largest and one of the most badly maintained wards in the city, 45% of the L-ward’s population lives on the banks of the Mithi river.

Thanks to the large number of illegal structures, it has the highest number of dilapidated buildings and landslide spots; 84.68% of its population lives in slums, which is one of the highest in the city; and the ward is highly prone to epidemic diseases.

“This area is a hotbed for illegal constructions and extensions, the civic staff is not alert and is scared to take action,” said Anna Prabhu, 78, a resident of Kurla.

Officials with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said their action against illegal constructions is delayed and slow either because of political pressure or because most of these structures have got demolition stays issued from courts.

A former ward officer, who served four years in Kurla, said most civic employees want to be posted at the L-ward as they can make money and get away with doing nothing.

The rot came to light in 2006 when the then deputy municipal commissioner suspended 10 engineers from the zone for inaction.

In 2008-2009, a departmental inquiry was constituted on 133 officials from the ward for abetting and delaying action against unauthorised constructions.

“The lack of action and no developmental work in Kurla is because there is no political will. We need a corporator who works for the people and not for his few favourites,” said Vishwas Kamble, a member of the Gaurishankar Mandal, which has been working to save the few open spaces in Kurla.

The data with the civic body shows there are more than 50,000 structures in Kurla that it has no idea about.

Hawkers, the poor quality of roads and pavements and highly encroached open spaces are other acute problems for residents of the ward.

The civic body’s own survey of the standard of living rates the L-ward at 6, which is below the city’s Human Development Measure average.

Tomorrow: C-ward

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