Over the last few weeks, close to 400 families living on the banks of Cooum were resettled in Gudapakkam (347 families from MSP Nagar, Maduravoyal) and Perumbakkam (46 families from EVR Road in Aminjikarai). However, when a hotel on the banks of Cooum, encroaching around 15 meters into the river, and polluting it by releasing sewerage was inspected by officials, the owners reportedly threatened them.
Vanessa Peter, policy researcher, Information and Resource Centre for the Deprived Urban Communities (IRCDUC), said slums are viewed as ‘encroachers’. “The reason why slums are informal settlements is because the government has failed to regularise them. It is the people living in the slums who always feel the brunt. The rich and affluent, living on the other side of the river, are not affected, as their lands are being regularised and pattas issued,” she said. Welcoming the government’s move in issuing notices to a few commercial establishments, encroaching along the river banks, she said, “This should be a fair and transparent process.”
One of the major issues is that there is no data on the boundaries of the waterbodies, said Satyarupa Sekhar, Director, Government Outreach and Advocacy, Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group (CAG). “What is an encroachment and what is not, are still unclear. A slum is viewed as an encroachment, but residential projects and other constructions, which pay for the right to violate. There are three types of encroachment – by the government, by commercial interests and by the poor, because they don’t have affordable land. Instead of providing affordable housing, the government is pushing the poor into ghetto-styled tenements outside the city, calling it development,” she said, pointing to the inherent contradicitons.