Spread across hills, plains, lakes, salt pans and marshy mangrove lands, the S ward is easily the biggest and the most diverse ward of Mumbai. With an area of 65 sq km that comprise slum settlements encroached upon forest land, hillocks, industrial estates in Bhandup and Kanjurmarg to the plush Hirananandani Gardens and Raheja Complex in Powai, the ward faces a range of civic problems. Nahur and parts of Vikhroli’s Kammanwar Nagar are also included in this ward.
The three biggest problems faced by the residents of Bhandup and Kanjurmarg are choked roads, poor disposal of garbage and chronic flooding during monsoon, as a lot of this area is low lying.
Nitesh Patil, a resident of Bhandup said while big commercial complexes and malls such as Nirmal Lifestyle and big residential highrises came up in Mulund, a number of major and minor nullahs were diverted towards Bhandup, because of which areas such as Usha Nagar and Konkan Nagar experience severe flooding during monsoon.
After wards L and M-East, S accounts for the highest slum population at 4.8 lakh as per data in civic body’s slum sanitation program documents of 2009. Bhandup and Kanjurmarg have big slum pockets such as Tembhipada, Khindipada, Sonapur, Konkan Nagar, Hanuman Nagar and Farid Nagar.
The old market area near IIT-Bombay and Tirandas village in Powai, inhabited by people working in quarries, face sever water shortage. Moreover, slums of Tembhipada, Bhattipada and Khindipada have grown in size by encroaching on to forest land.
Nitesh, who went to the ward office to complain against the increasing encroachments were told by civic officials that they were afraid of the slum lords. “Senior ward level officials have told me that they are helpless and scared of raising their voice against slumlords,” he said. There are 26 landslide prone areas in these slums.
Kashinath Karadkar, Congress corporator from Hanuman and Farid Nagar said the slum settlements have come up along such steep slopes that water never reaches here despite laying pipelines.
“Water and sanitation are the main problems in all the slum pockets here. There are hardly any slum rehabilitation buildings here,” he said. Slum rehabilitation projects are picking up in the Bhandup west area during the past three years.
The ward generates more than 500 tonne industrial waste because of a number of industrial estates in Bhandup and Kanjurmarg along the LBS Marg. The ward has also been dotted with a number of malls in the past five years such as the Dream Mall, Metro Mall and Neptune Mall in Bhandup and the Huma Ablabs and Mall in Kanjurmarg.
While the ward has adequate number of private and high-end hospitals such as Hiranandani-Fortis, there is only one peripheral BMC Ambedkar Hospital and one primary health centre in the slum areas.
Traffic congestion is another major issue for the residents of Bhandup and Powai. The main stretches in Bhandup, which see severe traffic jams are, the railway station approach road, Shivaji Taloa road and R R Pendkar Road, all dotted by encroached shops. Similarly, the arterial Jogeshwari-Vikhroli Link Road is a nightmare for motorists and residents of the plush Hiranandani gardens especially during peak hours.
Elsie Gabriel, a resident of Powai said during the evenings, the 900 meters stretch from Panch Kutir to Gandhi Nagar easily takes 45 minutes of travel time. “Moreover, garbage disposal is also a problem, not so much in Powai but in Kanjurmarg and Bhandup where the BMC’s garbage dumpers are largely in inadequate numbers,” she said.
The upcoming Kanjurmarg scientific landfill facility that will ease the pressure of the Deonar and Mulund dumping grounds is being opposed by local politicians who are under the impression that this too will bear problems of stench and pollution like dumping ground.
While environmentalists are concerned about the reclamation of mangrove land by dredging and debris dumping in order to create the landfill facility.
Apart from a number of parks and open spaces the BMC had last year developed the surroundings of the Powai lake along with a promenade, street lights and benches.