96% of containment zones in Mumbai are in slums, chawls
With 659 of the 684 containment zones in the city in slums and chawls, these densely populated areas and small tenements, which house a population of 35 lakh, will be crucial to Mumbai’s fight against Covid-19.
As per the Union health ministry, a containment zone is defined as a geographical area where a significant number of positive cases of coronavirus are found. Strict movement restrictions are put in place in such areas to prevent the spread of the virus. These zones are created by geographically demarcating 3-km radius from the residence of the positive case. Initially, the BMC contained single buildings, but now the BMC uses natural boundaries such as roads, nullahs, chowks to seal the zones. Zones can be made of a few buildings with cases, a square or an area that is easy to lock in. Restrictions are removed if no new case is found in 28 days. Overall, 7,79,740 households and 35,93,384 people in Mumbai are under containment zones.
Dharavi, the biggest slum cluster in Mumbai, has 11 containment zones, housing a population of 1.98 lakh. The Dharavi slum is spread over 2.4 sqkm, has 8,50,000 population and a population density of 354,167 per square kilometre, making it one of the more cramped spaces in Mumbai, itself the world’s fifth most densely populated city. The slum is characterised by difficult-to-manage makeshift shanties, or double storey stand-alone tin and concrete shanties. There are only a few multi-storey slum rehabilitation authority (SRA) buildings that are gated. There are 225 public community toilets in this slum, used by thousands of people daily. Residents are daily wage workers, or run small businesses from their homes. By some estimates, there are thousands of businesses in the shantytown.
Of the 684, slum pockets in L ward of BMC (Kurla) have the highest number of containment zones (131) covering 10,699 households and a population of 53,451. Kurla is followed by slum pockets in Govandi (M-East ward) and Bhandup (S ward).
There are 66 containment zones in Govandi which includes 54,533 households and 2.91 lakh people. In Bhandup, 84,772 people are contained in 62 zones, which include 18,979 households.
Small houses, common toilets and high population density lead to faster spread in slums and chawls, say civic officials. Home quarantining a positive patient is practically difficult in such localities owing to lack of space.
Suresh Kakani, additional municipal commissioner (who is in charge of health), said: “Most of the containment zones are in densely populated slums and chawls. It is because social distancing is difficult in such localities. As such, there will be restrictions. No person will be allowed to go out of the containment zone and no outsider will be allowed entry. The civic body is ensuring supply of essential commodities such as food and vegetables inside containment zones.”
Dr Prakash Rokade, independent health expert and epidemiologist, said, “Despite a majority of slum areas being marked as containment zones, the cases are rising daily. Demarcation is not the only solution. Institutional quarantine is important for these people.”
Civic officials say BMC has hired 42,000 hotel and lodge rooms across Mumbai, especially to quarantine slum dwellers from areas where home quarantine is not possible. In some areas, temporary quarantine facilities have been set up.