Staying near refineries can pose health & security risks: Bombay High Court

 The Bombay High Court on Monday said making people stay in the heavily air polluted Mahul area of Mumbai may not only pose health risks, but also increase security concerns on refineries located in the vicinity.

A division bench of Chief Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice Bharati Dangre said the Maharashtra government cannot force any person to stay at such a residential colony in Mahul.

The bench was hearing applications of a group of people displaced following demolition of their unauthorised houses on the Tansa pipeline that runs across several parts of the city.

Relying on an April 2019 order passed by another bench of the high court, the bench led by Chief Justice Nandrajog on Monday said the government will have to either accommodate the displaced persons elsewhere, or give them Rs 15,000 each month as rent so that they can find their own accommodation.

Around 15,000 families were displaced after their “unauthorised” houses near the Tansa pipeline were ordered to be demolished by the high court last year.

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had shifted the displaced people to a housing colony in Mahul, a polluted area where refineries and chemical units are located.

However, several families refused to move to Mahul, claiming that the air quality there was very poor and posed health risks.

“It is evident that residential premises in the vicinity of such refineries can pose multi-faceted risks, which are not only restricted to the health of residents nearby, but also security risk by way of a terrorist attack using these refineries as targets,” the bench said on Monday.

Such a terrorist attack would lead to colossal destruction within Mumbai city, it said.

The bench relied on an order passed by the National Green Tribunal in December 2015, stating that the presence of volatile organic compounds in Mahul makes the air pollution in the region harmful for human health.

“We have perused reports prepared by three government agencies – the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board, the Central Pollution Control Board and NEERI – which show that the air pollution in Mahul continues to be disturbingly high and to this day, poses threat to human life,” the court said.

Around 200 of the 15,000 affected families have shifted to Mahul so far.

The court, in its order, said the government and the BMC shall not shift any more displaced persons to Mahul and shall also inform those persons who have been already shifted there that they can opt to leave the place.

After the bench passed its order, the BMC sought a stay so on it that it could approach the Supreme Court.

The bench, however, refused to grant the stay.

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