Govandi residents breathe easy as HC orders relocation of biomedical plant | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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Govandi residents breathe easy as HC orders relocation of biomedical plant

By, Mumbai
Sep 13, 2023 12:40 AM IST

Faiyaz Alam Shaikh from Govandi New Sangam Welfare Society, who had filed a public interest litigation (PIL) petition in 2022, said, “Until now, authorities had committed to relocate the incinerator. The HC has for the first time passed an order to speed up that process.”

Residents of Govandi, who have been breathing toxic fumes emanating from a biomedical waste treatment plant since 2009, have won a 14-year-long battle as the Bombay high court on Monday directed the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to shift the incinerator to Patalganga in Borivali MIDC within the next two years.

Petitioner Faiyaz Alam Shaikh (second from right) celebrates the HC verdict with other residents of Govandi on Tuesday. (Satish Bate/ HT Photo)
Petitioner Faiyaz Alam Shaikh (second from right) celebrates the HC verdict with other residents of Govandi on Tuesday. (Satish Bate/ HT Photo)

Faiyaz Alam Shaikh from Govandi New Sangam Welfare Society, who had filed a public interest litigation (PIL) petition in 2022, said, “Until now, authorities had committed to relocate the incinerator. The HC has for the first time passed an order to speed up that process.”

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In 2019, the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) issued a closure notice, but the contractor moved the high court and got a stay. Residents then filed a PIL in 2022 to challenge the stay. “This is a victory for residents because the stay of 2019 was revoked. We also had requested the HC for compensation to the affected residents,” Shaikh said.

The HC has said that the affected residents should approach the National Green Tribunal (NGT) for appropriate environmental compensation from the contractor on the basis of the ‘polluter pays’ principle.

“We have been fighting this battle in court since 2019 but only during the pandemic, the incinerator functioned beyond the permissible limit. There should have been three different plants at three locations, but the entire city’s biomedical waste load is concentrated in Govandi. This could have been averted if healthcare facilities had disposed of their biomedical waste at their own site instead of dumping it in one ward (M East). The HC has directed MPCB to visit the site to monitor their works and prevent violation until its complete closure within 24 months,” Shaikh said.

The surrounding areas around the Govandi-Deonar belt where the incinerator is functional predominantly have densely populated slums such as Kamala Ramannagar, Baiganwadi, Shivaji Nagar, Dr Zakir Hussain Nagar, Annabhau Satge Nagar and Mankhurd Mandala.

A query filed under the Right to Information Act by Shaikh revealed that from 2009 to 2015, the cases of lung cancer in Govandi jumped from 621 to 904 while the cases of heart disease and heart attack shot up from 19,702 to 28,982 and the cases of other respiratory diseases went up from 38 to 42.

Ateeque Khan, a resident of Baiganwadi, said, “This order means a lot to me as I now firmly believe that the judiciary is the last resort as the state government, BMC and MPCB failed us with their abject apathy towards our plight and played with our lives. We were getting killed every day by the incinerator.”

Khan’s mother Kausari Bano, 62, had to be sent to her village in Bihar due to a respiratory illness and lung-related issues. “She used to complain of breathlessness and was using nasal spray every day. She is doing fine now and has recovered,” Khan added.

Nafees Ansari, another Govandi resident, said residents suffered from throat cancer, TB at an alarming rate and yet MPCB and the contractor were in denial mode. “They were not willing to acknowledge the enormity of the diseases and they had no mechanism to measure the smoke emanating from the incinerator. This HC order is a major relief to all the aggrieved residents who deserve compensation, and we hope the NGT delivers justice.”

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