Salt pan lands will have to go for the city to achieve its slum-free dream. The state government on Tuesday asked the Centre to unlock salt pan lands for redevelopment schemes for slumdwellers.
CM Prithviraj Chavan raised the demand at a conclave on urban poverty alleviation and the Rajeev Aawas Yojana (RAY), a Centre-approved scheme which encourages state governments to provide legal dwelling space to landless persons residing in slums. The conclave, which was presided over by Union minister for housing and urban poverty alleviation Kumari Selja, was held at the state guesthouse and involved majority stakeholders.
The demand for unlocking of the salt pan lands was made while discussing issues related to rehabilitation of slumdwellers on land owned by the Centre. RAY assigns the responsibility of rehabilitation of slumdwellers on Centre-owned lands to state governments. RAY guidelines require the state government to relocate and rehabilitate slumdwellers on central or privately-owned lands at alternate sites provided the land owners are unwilling to permit in situ development. With over 1 lakh slum families residing on land owned by central agencies in Mumbai alone, Chavan raised the issue of paucity of alternate rehabilitation land. At the event, Chavan insisted on the need to evolve a “clear-cut policy” for rehabilitation of those residing on these lands. “Either these agencies should be pursued to permit in situ rehabilitation, or provide alternate land for rehabilitation,” Chavan said, adding, “An option could be the release of salt pan lands.”
Selja favoured the move and said she would approach her Cabinet colleagues in the Union government over the demand. Mumbai has nearly 13 pockets of salt pan lands, collectively measuring about 5000 acres. Developers have welcomed the CM’s suggestion, which has raised hackles among activists.
Civic activist Medha Patkar said instead of tapping “ecologically sensitive” salt pans, the state should consider reclaiming 30,000 acre in possession of a handful of rich people in violation of the erstwhile Urban Land Ceiling and Regulation Act. The utilization of these lands has been deliberated since 2001. There is, however, some hope for salt pans. Selja said she has written to all the central agencies asking them to cooperate with the state government on in-situ redevelopment.
Aruna Sunderajan, joint secretary, ministry of housing and urban poverty alleviation, said some of these agencies, like the Ministry of Shipping and Ports, had responded in the positive.