In an affidavit filed before the HC on Wednesday, Sachin Repal, divisional forest officer (Wildlife 1), said that they have been able to “only partially rehabilitate the eligible encroachers”.
The affidavit was submitted in response to a petition filed by the families rendered homeless by a wall collapse at Kurar village in Malad (E) in 2019 owing to heavy rain.
The families had been residing on forest land and irrespective of their eligibility, the government had released 100 tenements for their rehabilitation. Of these, 82 families were rehabilitated at Kandivli (W). The remaining 23 were to be rehabilitated at Mahul, but an HC stay order on shifting people there did not allow this.
Repal, in his affidavit, stated that for various reasons ranging from the scale of rehabilitation (25,144 families), funding required, unwillingness of eligible encroachers to be rehabilitated at Shirdon in Kalyan to the objections raised by the Director General of Civil Aviation that the rehabilitation buildings at Chandivli were in the flight funnel zone of Mumbai international airport, the directions for removal of encroac-hments and rehabilitation of eligible encroachers has only been partially complied with. He further said that because of these developments, it was apparent that rehabilitation at Chandivli was not possible in the immediate future.
Repal said that SGNP authorities approached various agencies, including the collectors of Suburban Mumbai and Thane, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, Thane Municipal Corporation, Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority, Maharashtra Housing Area Development Authority (Mhada) and Slum Rehabilitation Authority for land and tenements, but so far has not received any assistance.
The affidavit said that in 2018, a state-appointed high-powered committee to resolve the rehabilitation issue had decided that of the 190 ac-res handed over to SGNP for developing a zoo, 90 acres be used for rehabilitation of eligible families—47 acres to build high-rises for encroachers and 47 acres to rehouse tribals. “Mhada even floated tenders, but received no bids. Now, 100 acres of this area has been earmarked as reserved forest,” said the affidavit.
Repal also pointed out that forest officials were qualified only for management and conservation of forest areas and the park was understaffed. The rehabilitation on the orders of the court was an additional responsibility.
As for the victims of the wall collapse, Repal said that they would be rehabilitated as and when the requisite tenements are available. He also asked for the petition to be dismissed.