In July 2013 I came across an article that said respiratory diseases were among the top five killers in Mumbai.
Deaths due to respiratory tract infections such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disorders (COPD) and bronchial asthma were rising steadily. Lung specialists said that one in 10 people in the city had asthma. There were many more deaths from TB and lung cancer.
Where, I wondered, was the source of the pollution that was causing this problem ? What I found was quite shocking.
We have mountains of coal in the heart of South Mumbai, just a few kilometres from Chatrapati Shivaji Station. RTI applications revealed that over 1.8 mln tonnes were stacked here in 2013. And the sea breeze carries this coal dust into the lungs of every Mumbaikar. This coal, is not even meant for the city of Mumbai. It is being stacked here for storage and transport to coal plants of MahGenCo in Bhusaval, which would be much better served by ports such as Surat.
This coal is being unloaded through open excavators, stored in the open and transported in uncovered trucks in violation of all pollution control norms, exposing our city and everyone who lives in Mumbai to growing health hazards.
Google earth photos show how an area that was completely green in 2000 had turned completely black by 2013. Mangroves in the area have been completely destroyed and the entire area of Haji Bunder is carpeted in a layer of black sludge.
In my 2014 Lok Sabha campaign, I therefore committed that I would work towards the removal of these Coal mountains, irrespective of whether I won or lost the election.
And so over the past few months, working with a team of committed citizens, I filed a petition in this matter. As the Pollution Control clearance to Mumbai Port Trust for the handling of coal was expiring on 30th September 2014, this was a matter of urgency.
I am very glad to share that the Hon High Court of Mumbai has heard our Petition. Their judgement, extracts of which are attached below, gives us confidence that the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board will not extend its permission to the Mumbai Port Trust for coal handling.
” PUBLIC INTEREST LITIGATION (L) NO.111 OF 2014
Smt. Meera Sanyal and anr. vs. Union of India through Ministry of Environment and Forests, New Delhi and ors.
Mr. Kusumakar Kaushik for Petitioners.
CORAM: MOHIT S. SHAH, C.J. & M.S.SONAK, J.
DATE : 25 SEPTEMBER 2014
Two public spirited citizens in Mumbai have moved this Court for challenging the consent to operate order dated 14 October 2013 granted by the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) to Mumbai Port Trust (MPT), particularly, in the matter of coal handling at Haji Bunder or at any other place in Mumbai Port Lands. The said consent to operate order is going to expire on 30 September 2014 and the petitioners have therefore prayed for an injunction to restrain the MPCB from renewing/extending the consent to operate beyond 30 September 2014.
2] Having regard to the nature of grievances voiced in the public interest litigation, it would be just and proper to direct that MPCB shall treat the memo of this public interest litigation as a representation.
3] Accordingly, the public interest litigation is disposed of with a direction to MPCBrespondent No.3 to treat the memo of this public interest litigation as a representation and to take the same into consideration before taking any decision on the proposal of MPT respondent No.4 for renewal/extension of the consent to operate order. It goes without saying that the MPT will also be allowed to submit their response to the representation and such response shall be given within two weeks from today and thereafter MPCB shall consider the proposal of MPT for renewal/ extension of the consent to operate.
4] It is clarified that we have not gone into the merits of the controversies sought to be raised in this public interest litigation and it will be open to the petitioners to move this Court again, if and when required.
(M.S.SONAK, J.) ”
This is however only the first step in our battle to reclaim the PortLands for the city of Mumbai.
Please join me in this fight for a more livable Mumbai and share this post with your friends. Please also share any ideas and suggestions you may have on Mumbai’s PortLands at email@example.com
In my 2014 Lok Sabha campaign, the issue of reclaiming Mumbai’s Port Lands was central to my agenda.
Mumbai’s Port Lands, (comprising approx. 1000 acres of non operational land within the Mumbai Port Trust, on the eastern water front) represent a unique and perhaps the only chance to re-vitalise and re-imagine the city of Mumbai.
The Mumbai Port was once the fulcrum of our great industrial city from the 18th-20th century. However with rising costs, Industry migrated, with a corresponding decline in Port operations. Once thriving warehouses turned derelict and the area is now a dumping ground for coal (1.8 mln tonnes in 2013), a toxic ship breaking yard, (where the iconic air craft carrier Vikrant has been beached for scrap) and other polluting and undesirable activities.
The area can and should become a green lung for the city offering much needed public utilities such as schools, colleges, vocational training centres, hospitals, libraries, playgrounds, sports facilities, arts & crafts zones and open spaces. It can also become an Educational cum sports hub, and an Innovation cluster with Incubation facilities and infrastructure for new age entrepreneurs.
Over the past few months, I was happy to see that many Mumbaikars shared this dream and even happier that the new Government picked up this idea, and invited citizen suggestions.
Working with a wonderful group of young architects, urban planners and Mumbaikars, we formed a citizens group called APLI Mumbai and proposed the attached vision plan to the Mumbai Port Trust.
Our proposal takes into account the historical, archeological and ecological characteristics of the Port Lands and proposes 12 neighbourhoods that can swiftly and economically transform our Port Lands into a beautiful, friendly, open and vibrant part of our city.
Strategically located between the Suburban harbour line and the eastern waterfront, most parts of the Port Lands are no more than a 10 minute walk from an existing railway station. The Eastern waterfront lends itself seamlessly to coastal water transport and with the 9 Passenger Water Terminals that we have proposed, the Port Lands can decongest Mumbai’s crowded arterial roads and provide much needed North-South and trans-harbour connectivity.
We have suggested certain core principles to the Rani Jadhav Committee in our Citizens Vision plan, namely :
We have also suggested an enabling Legislative framework and a financing plan, that envisages Mumbai’s industrial houses, investing their CSR budgets, for creating Public utilities and public spaces, that are much needed for the future of all Mumbaikars.
To ensure that this is truly a Citizens plan and that the Port Lands are not subjected to the land grab that our Mill Lands were, please share this widely with your friends and family and all who are passionate about the future of our city.
We see this as a living document and would be very glad to receive your ideas and suggestions.
Please share your feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org so that we can incorporate your input and update the MbPT at regular intervals.