Help us leave #MumbaisToxicHell

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Problem
Mili Goswami, a 10-year-old girl from Mumbai, has lost her father due to cancer; the doctors say this was caused by the toxic pollution at Mahul (a.k.a. #MumbaisToxicHell), the critically polluted industrial area where the Government has forcibly dumped her and made her live, after tearing down the home where she was born.

Her family, like mine, was one of the 5,500 affected families who once lived in the slums along the Tansa Pipeline at Vidhyavihar, Mumbai. The government demolished all our hutments near the Pipeline in 2017, and put us in one-room kitchen flats in toxic Mahul. Within a few months after shifting to ‘critically polluted’ Mahul, Mili’s father, who was their only provider, got diagnosed with cancer and died. Her elder sister too was then diagnosed with tuberculosis because of the same pollution.

Mili has been squatting with us on the footpath near Tansa Pipeline road for the last 45 days, protesting along with hundreds of other women and children from Mahul, for our ‘Right to Life’ and safe housing. She experienced a paralytic attack on the third day of this protest, two days after the local police detained us for protesting. She was admitted to the hospital for two days, but she says she is better off protesting here, than living in the hellhole that is Mahul.

We just ask for freedom from the toxic living conditions in Mahul, which the government has forcibly imposed on 5,500 poor families of Mumbai city by dumping us here.

Mahul is a severely polluted industrial area in Mumbai’s eastern suburbs with severe air toxicity levels so high, that two Indian courts have declared it unfit for human living. And yet, the Maharashtra Government have chosen to dump 30,000 of Mumbai’s poorest residents here and leave us to die a slow and horrible death. Like over 60% of Mumbai’s population, we were slum-dwellers who settled in Mumbai several decades ago, leaving behind poverty in our native villages and dreaming of a better life for our families. Overnight, our homes were demolished, under the pretext of ‘development’ and ‘security’ and we were thrown in what is probably the world’s most toxic neighbourhoods in any megacity.

The Bombay High Court has ordered the State Government to find more humane accommodation for the 5,500 families who were ‘rehabilitated’ in Mahul, and yet the Government chooses to ignore court orders. Meanwhile, more than 150 of our people who had been evicted from our slums and ‘rehabilitated’ in Mahul have died from pollution-related illnesses in the last 18 months, while another 500+ are critically ill, and worsening day by day. Even the Municipal Corporation of Mumbai admits that the real figures could be much higher. There was also a refinery blast on 8th August 2018, just 20 mts from our ‘rehabilitation’ site. Left to rot in hell, we live in constant fear and disease.

According to data obtained using the Right to Information Act 100,000 houses (list already submitted to Govt.) which have already been constructed using public money under the Project Affected Persons (PAP) and Slum Rehabilitation categories are available in Mumbai, and we have been demanding our right to be re-homed here. Yet, the state govt. has submitted an affidavit before the Court refusing to provide such accommodation, and the Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis refuses to even acknowledge the urgency of the issue or meet us, choosing instead to devote his spare time to attending music concerts and cutting ribbons at inaugurations, while we die, one by one.

We appeal to all human beings with a conscience to support us in our demand for basic right to life and clean air for all sections of society, as accorded by the Indian Constitution. This is not just about the urban poor; it is also about pollution, environment, and basic humanity and justice – subjects affecting every class of society today.

Solution
The 100,000 houses (list already submitted to Govt.) which have already been constructed under the Project Affected Persons (PAP) and Slum Rehabilitation categories are available in Mumbai, we can easily be re-homed there. We appeal to the Chief minister of Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis and the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to show some compassion and expedite the process of our rehabilitation away from toxic Mahul

Personal story
I’m Anita Dhole, a 38-year-old physically disabled woman from Mumbai, India, working as a recovery officer in Mumbai's low income banking sector. My family has been staying at the Tansa pipeline slums for the last 50 years, with valid legal residential proof, including Aadhaar card, ration card, electricity bills, election card and Municipal water bills showing this address, where I was born and raised. We pay our taxes like any other Indian citizen. After moving to Mahul, my mother had a paralysis attack because of the extreme pollution, and my father’s eyesight and respiratory health deteriorated. I had to send them back to our village, just to save their lives. I too have been suffering pollution-related illnesses. My eyesight too has deteriorated, skin problems have made my life hell, my blood pressure has gone out of control and I have been experiencing both respiratory issues and anxiety attacks. Tired of the this torture, we the women of Mahul, realised that since we had no political or economic resources, our only strength was our unity, and we, the women and children of Mahul, have been protesting together against this injustice, and demanding our right to live with health and dignity.

Read more about Mahul #MumbaisToxicHell:

A report on the Mahul issue in The Guardian

A report Mumbai's rehabilitation hellhole by scroll.in

Al Jazeera covers the Mahul issue

60 per cent of Mahul suffers from Pollution-related illnesses