Can't forget July 2005 deluge in Mumbai: HC on plea against Mithi river improvement project | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times

Can't forget July 2005 deluge in Mumbai: HC on plea against Mithi river improvement project

Mar 03, 2024 12:00 PM IST

Can't forget July 2005 deluge in Mumbai: HC on plea against Mithi river improvement project

A division bench of Justices Gautam Patel and Kamal Khata said public interest will not allow it to grant any wide relief to a welfare society which has filed a plea against the proposed Mithi river improvement project.

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The bench on February 29 heard two petitions filed by the Ashiyana Welfare Society and Sameer Ahmed Choudhary, who claimed to be affected by the proposed infrastructure project for the improvement of the Mithi river.

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The pleas sought for a restraint on demolition of the society's structures.

"Public memory may be short, but it cannot be that short that the city entirely forgets the time just a few years ago in July 2005, when it was almost entirely under water and one of the portions most severely affected was the Mithi river especially at its mouth," the HC said.

There was extensive damage and much of this was to the illicit construction along the banks of the Mithi river, it added.

The court noted that public interest will not allow it to grant much relief to the petitioners, especially when there is in place a rehabilitation policy to which the HC will presently advert.

Throughout Mumbai where there are public projects being undertaken, there is a likelihood of resultant displacement, it said.

"In recognition of this as a social, human, societal and urban planning issue, the government at various levels has formulated policies that allow for the execution of these public works but simultaneously also make provision for compensation and rehabilitation," the HC said.

Senior advocate Anil Sakhare, appearing for the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), told the court that out of 500 structures, 179 have been surveyed so far and the remaining would be surveyed and eligibility assessments would be completed in four weeks.

The eligible project affected persons would be provided alternate tenements or monetary compensation, he said.

The bench then directed the BMC to submit this information on an affidavit, including details of the rehabilitation policy.

"Once this is done, and once we have the names of those who are so far found eligible, then the court can monitor the process of relocation and rehabilitation of those affected by this project," the bench said.

The HC said it would hear the pleas on March 13 until when the earlier orders of no coercive action against the structures would continue.

As per the BMC, the project includes widening, deepening and construction of a retaining wall and a 12-metre-wide road along the Mithi river.

The project also includes ancillary works such as the laying of sewer lines and storm water drains.

The court said it cannot accept the petitioner's contention that the service road could be of a lesser width so that their members are not affected by the project.

"That is not for a society or persons who are essentially encroachers on public lands to say," the HC said.

The 17.8-km Mithi river starts at the Vihar Lake and ends in the Arabian Sea at Mahim Causeway and passes through several areas of Mumbai's suburbs.

Unprecedented rains on July 26, 2005 in the city led to a deluge when the Mithi river banks broke, flooding some of the city's most densely populated areas and claiming several lives.

Encroachments, reclamation, improperly built retaining walls, indiscriminate dumping of industrial effluents and solid waste have adversely affected the river.

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