Good sense seems to have finally prevailed with the state department of urban development permitting BMC to provide water connections to all slums in the city.
Six months ago, municipal commissioner Sitaram Kunte had written to the department seeking permission to provide water connections to slums that had come up after 1995.
This was part of BMC's effort to tackle the problem of water mafia providing unauthorised water connection in these slums. The civic body was losing crores in revenue, and slum dwellers were being exposed to contaminated water.
On June 4, BMC received a letter from the department, accepting its request to provide water connections to all slums.
According to the records in the water department, BMC provides 3,750 million litres of water per day to the city. "However, 27% of this water is wasted because of the hundreds of unauthorised water connections in slums," a civic official said.
He said the proposal on providing water to all city slums, which was being framed, was likely to be presented in the standing committee meeting next week. "We are considering providing water to all slums. If the civic body demolishes slums in any area, we will cut connection to that area before it's demolished," the official said.
Problems started when on June 13, 1996 the urban development ministry ordered BMC not to give water connections to slums that had come up after January 1, 1995, the cut-off date for regularising slums. As a result, a substantial number of shanty-dwellers stopped getting water, and they turned to the water mafias, who illegally taps water from pipelines and sells it for a premium.
Not providing water is a gross violation of article 5.5 (A) of Maharashtra Slum Dwellers Area Act, 1977, as per which all slum dwellers are to be provided basic civic facilities like water.
"Unauthorised water connection, stealing water, unauthorised work on water pipes, getting water illegally and not paying tax are common problems. Such practices are common, especially in M-East, L and P-North wards (Mankhurd, Kurla and Goregaon-Malad-E)," Kunte's letter had said.
Slum Rehabilitation Authority data show that the number of huts in the city has gone up from 8 lakh in 1996 to 13 lakh in 2013, and slum population in the corresponding period has increased from 40 lakh to 65 lakh.
Additional municipal commissioner Rajiv Jalota confirmed the development, saying: "There are certain issues that need to be worked out. We are trying to find solutions to them before the proposal is placed before the standing committee."