Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Going back and forth on R&R for New Mumbai Airport - Sheela Patel

The NSDF link with Airport slums predates the formation of the alliance with SPARC and MM. ZOPADI KI AWAS and may leaders from airport slums were part of NSDF and fought against evictions. Prominent amongst them was MAGAR who lived in the airport slums but worked as a peon in BMC.

From 1986 onward the NSDF begun to survey airport slums and formed a federation which in turn sought the assistance of SPARC to present its findings to the Urban Development Department as well as the housing department.  The issues surveyed were the direct impact of lack of collection of garbage in the slums near the airport causing an increase in the number of birds hitting the planes; the loss of time and air fuel due to the slum that abutted the runaway.

This one slum was then relocated, thus demonstrating what organized communities could do. This was followed with the announcement of the privatization of the airport and MIAL managed by MVK group. Although some people in the government tried to get the alliance to undertake the survey, the construction of the tenements for relocation and the actual relocation was given to HDL. While local communities feel the number of houses is 98,000 structures HDL claims it is 80,000—although no official survey has been done so far as the residents do not allow it.

Their contention is simple: They want to know what land the airport needs for expanding its directly needed infrastructure. They agree that this land would be handed over in exchange for the households to be relocated on lands outside this new boundary.

MIAL and HDL want to relocate all of the households elsewhere on lands purchased or claimed for this purpose.  They want to convert this land into convention centers hotels and other commercial activity which the residents are resisting.

Although this estrangement is between two private companies, the state has a duty and obligation to arbitrate the public interest matter of addressing the relocation issue as well as expediting the improvement of the airport.

No one is answering the resident communities question about what land does the airport need for its own infrastructure.

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