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"If the alignment of a project passes through a slum, we cannot do even basic investigations such as boring and checking rock strength. Also, land once cleared is susceptible to fresh encroachment," said an official with the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), working on the Eastern Freeway project, which has struggled to clear encroachments and rehabilitate 7,000 families.
Rehabilitation is an involved process. The authority has to survey how many families are affected, then determine with the help of the district collector how many of them are eligible for rehabilitation. In some cases, it involves mowing down buildings and commercial establishments whose residents prefer not to be equated with slum dwellers. In such cases, litigation and negotiations slow down the project. The authority took several years before it could demolish 13 residential buildings in Tilak Nagar and two in Netaji Nagar to make way for the SCLR.
Nearly all these projects also involved shifting religious structures and faced opposition from the trusts that owned them. The SCLR, for which at least 10 such structures were shifted, still has one Hanuman temple to deal with. For the Metro, the MMRDA could obtain complete right of way only last year, nearly five years after construction had started, having struggled to convince the authorities of a mosque in Andheri and a temple in Ghatkopar to hand over a portion of their land.
Again, the entrenched south-north railway network means lines often cross east-west projects such as the SCLR or the Metro. These need clearance from Central Railway or Western Railway, and the design is sometimes changed, after which the proposal goes to the Commissioner of Railway Safety for final approval. "For the SCLR, Central Railway made us change the design of the bridge over the railway tracks at least four times," an official working on the project said. Central Railway took nearly five years to clear an SCLR portion over the railway tracks, while clearance to the launching scheme of one of two bridges is still pending. Western Railway took more than 18 months to allow the Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar Metro over the Andheri tracks.