With the rich and the poor living side by side, the S-ward in the eastern suburbs is not one cohesive entity with similar needs and problems.
For residents of Powai, a plush locality, the problem may be that of poor maintenance of open spaces, but in Bhandup, Vikhroli and Kanjurmarg, the issues are more basic, pertaining to water supply and garbage clearance.
The Bhandup-Kanjurmarg belt is home to 50 lakh slums and innumerable chawls visibly in need of an overhaul. The need of the hour is planned redevelopment of old chawls and slums, which has not taken off.
“The S-ward is predominated with hilly stretches. The available level space has railway stations and highways. Though the ward has tremendous scope for development projects, builders don’t come forward because of the hilly belt,” said a municipal officer, requesting anonymity.
Kashinath Karadkar, corporator from Hanuman Nagar, Bhandup, said slum dwellers are wary of redevelopment projects. “People living in slums are not in favour of Slum Rehabilitation Authority projects because they have either seen or heard that Mhada buildings have water supply and other problems,” he said.
Suresh Shinde, the corporator from Tembipada, Bhandup, however, believes this attitude is changing. “Having seen the success of redevelopment in some areas, people are slowly opening up to these projects,” he said.
Anil Malekar, 62, a resident of Datar Colony in Bhandup, said the slums don’t bother residents living in buildings, but pointed out that something must be done as they have grown exponentially. “Politicians have their own interests in letting these slums stay,” he said.
Garbage clearance and waste management are persistent problems in the ward. “We can’t open our ground floor window that faces the garbage bin on the road because of the stench. It’s been a problem for a year now,” said Brother Peter Paul, founder and managing trustee of the Good Samaritan Mission (a home for street children and male dying destitutes) in Vikhroli. Paul said his letter to the ward office requesting that the garbage be cleared regularly has made no difference.
“The garbage vans don’t come regularly. The contractors are not doing their job,” admitted Karadkar.
The ward has a dumping ground in Vikhroli, which stinks up the surrounding areas. “I raised the matter of shifting the dumping ground from Vikhroli in the Assembly sessions, but no one pays heed. It has been difficult finding another place to shift it,” said Mangesh Sangle, corporator from Vikhroli and legislator.
Slum pockets also don’t get sufficient water supply. “We have not been able to provide water to pre-1995 legal slums alongside the saltpan lands in Tata Nagar, Bhandup as the land belongs to the salt commissioner and he has not been cooperative about installing water connections,” said Gopinath Patil, husband of corporator Sangeeta Patil.
Thelma D’souza, a citizen candidate from Powai who will contest in the civic elections, said her agenda would be to cater to both the rich and the poor. “There is no water supply to slum pockets in Powai. The current corporator said it is difficult to send water to hilly areas where the slums are located. Then how do sky-rises get regular water supply?” asked D’souza.