September 24, 2019

Families to be rehabilitated as a consequence of slum clearance shall not be given asylum near refineries that can pose health and security risks: Bombay HC

[ by Legal Era News Network ]


A division bench of Chief Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice Bharati Dangre of the Bombay High Court said that the Project Affected Persons (PAP) should not be given asylum to stay at residential colonies near refineries that pose health and security risks.

Mahul region in Mumbai is home to nine major industrial units including refineries of the Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL), Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL), Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilizers Ltd., the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) as also private industrial units such as the Tata Power Thermal Power Plant, Sealord Containers and Aegis Logistics.

A group of residents, who were displaced following demolition of their unauthorized houses on the Tansa Pipeline Project that runs across several parts of the city, had filed a petition to the Bombay High Court. These petitioners challenged the allotment of housing colony in Mahul – a polluted area where the aforementioned refineries and chemical units are located. The allotment was done by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).

The petitioners contended that the location of the premises posits issues that rendered the Colony uninhabitable. The presence of residential premises in close proximity of industrial belts poses a threat the safety of the residents themselves. The Petitioners also contended that the colony is bereft of hygienic conditions and basic amenities, including schools and medical centres.

The Bombay High Court ruled that that residential premises in the vicinity of such refineries can pose multi-faceted security risks, which are not only restricted to the health of the residents nearby and the absolute liability imposed on the refineries, but a terrorist attack using these refineries as targets could lead to colossal destruction within the city, that could debilitate a large number of people living around the region.

The Bench relied on an order passed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) which stated that the presence of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) present in the air in the region makes it particularly harmful for human health. The Court further held that a perusal of contemporaneous reports prepared by three government agencies, namely the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board, (MPCB), the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) shows that air pollution in Mahul continues to be disturbingly high and still poses a threat to human life. A joint report prepared by the MPCB, CPCB and NEERI dated 1st January 2019 forming part of the proceedings before the National Green Tribunal, records an alarming level of air pollution, particularly in the form of VOCs.

The Bombay High Court directed that the families to be rehabilitated as a consequence of slum clearance shall not be shifted to the colonies in Mahul or Ambapada and those who have been rehabilitated at the said two colonies under the slum rehabilitation schemes would be offered accommodation elsewhere and till alternative accommodation is made available they would be paid Rs. 15,000/- per month as transit rent with security deposit of Rs. 45,000/- upon the family rehabilitated.

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