As BMC brings down 40 chimneys of polluting units in south Mumbai, residents remain skeptical about impact

Since 2016-17, as many as 1,300 chimneys have been demolished in the area. (Representational image)

Toxic fumes in Mumbai: As many as 40 chimneys have been demolished by Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) since last month in south Mumbai. These chimneys, located in Kalbadevi, Zaveri Bazar and Bhuleshwar areas, were letting out toxic fumes due to the local gold polishing and smelting units, according to a report in IE. The fumes are an issue for the locals in the area, who have been fighting against these units for 20 years. Hence, they are also skeptical about the action that the BMC has taken.

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The report quoted Bhuleshwar Residents Association member Harikishan Goradia as saying that the units that are responsible for these toxic fumes begin to work after 6 in the evening and then operate through the night. In case the residents raise complaints during that time, officials from the authority visit the locality the following day, by when the units have closed. Apart from that, even if the civic authority demolishes the chimney, the units reinstall them once the drive ends, and thus, the BMC should demolish the entire structures of the units, Harikishan added.

Since 2016-17, as many as 1,300 chimneys have been demolished in the area, the report said, adding that the civic body was also aware of the reinstallation or reconstruction of the chimneys. The report quoted a ward official as saying that at some places, the civic body has been facing a stiff resistance to the drive, in which case they demolish the chimneys from outside. However, the official added that even in cases where they demolish the chimneys, workers inside the rooms continue to work, ultimately inhaling the toxic fumes and undergoing health issues.

Toxic fumes in south Mumbai: The long-standing issue

Back in 2001, one of the units faced a fire during which 24 people died. Following the incident, the government had reassured that the units would be shifted within a month’s time. Since then, two decades have passed and no such action has taken place.

After the incident, the Mumbai Fire Brigade had submitted its report, in which it highlighted that the area was under a severe risk of fires as well as explosions owing to the illegal and hazardous activities that were being carried out at the units in relation to jewellery making. The brigade had also recommended that all such activities be brought to a halt.

Since then, several CMs, including Prithviraj Chavan, Sushilkumar Shinde and Vilasrao Deshmukh, promised that these units would be shifted, but it led to no fruition. In 2018, then CM Devendra Fadnavis had issued a directive to shift out the establishments polluting the area, but no final plan was prepared till the end of his term.

Plans have been discussed to move these units to the industrial area in Navi Mumbai, but according to the residents, the plans have been confined to the paper. The report said that recently, the Bhuleshwar Residents Association wrote to the BMC, informing them about the increase in the units in the area. However, the civic body held that since 2018, it had removed 1,300 units from there.

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