The Mumbai airport’s expansion plan has to steer past a new hurdle.
Three years after the plan to expand the airport on land occupied by slums adjoining the airfield, the airport management has now found out that some patches of the land belong to private owners.
Under the state government’s policy, only slumdwellers living in hutments built prior to 2000 are eligible to rehabilitation. Former chief minister Ashok Chavan, in August, had set a November deadline to relocate at least 20,000 families. But officials from the collector’s office, who are conducting a door-to-door survey to check the eligibility of slumdwellers for the rehabilitation package, have to skip the houses on private land.
On Tuesday, the suburban collector Nirmal Deshmukh discussed the issue with the airport operator, Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL), the Housing Development and Infrastructure Limited (HDIL) and the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority.
The delay will push MIAL’s plans to build taxiways and aircraft hangers on the 276 acres of land. The space crunch at the airport has hindered smooth operations and resulted in the airport losing permission to operate 12 domestic flights daily in the winter schedule. “We have almost completed the first step of the survey. There are four more steps to go,” said Deshmukh. He did not mention a timeline to finish the survey work.
The survey is being conducted at a snail’s pace because of frequent opposition from slumdwellers. On November 25, the Saki Naka police lathi-charged a mob at the Jarimari slums near Kurla when residents refused to cooperate with survey workers. Slumdwellers alleged that survey workers were goons sent by senior a Congress leader.
Also, the 20,000 tenements constructed at Kurla by HDIL to relocate the slumdwellers are not ready for use. Elevators, water supply and sewage facilities were fixed only recently. “The approach road is not ready. According to the plan approved by the Slum Rehabilitation Authority, they have to build schools, hospitals and religious spots before shifting people there,” said an official from the collector’s office, on condition of anonymity. MIAL refused to comment on the repercussions of the delay, while the HDIL spokesperson was unavailable for comments.