Formal and Informal, example of a wormhole

The slums at Versova Beach are unintentionally sanctioned by a combination of laws (see text). The slums of Sagar Kutir on the left are permanent whereas the shacks on the right are only seasonal. Image Google/DigitalGlobe.

Sagar Kutir in Mumbai's Versova neighborhood is an example of encroachment on a similarly dangerous area, the beach. Although an environmental protection program for coastal areas nowadays forbids new permanent construction closer than 500 meters to the water, many pockets of settlement still exist within reach of the waves. Sagar Kutir is exposed directly to the Arabian Sea and houses are occasionally washed away in tropical storms. In order to protect people, local authorities order inhabitants to leave the houses that are most at risk and to seek shelter elsewhere. The informal and the formal sector meet here in a fascinating way. Since the settlements as such are informal and illegal, but dwellers are protected from eviction by law[1], authorities are forced to tolerate the erection of temporary shelter on coastal land. In addition, eviction during monsoon is considered too much a burden on dwellers and thus never takes place. Migrants use this legal loophole every year. On the beach therefore, one finds a seasonal presence of farmers besides the more permanent informal dwellers. As a result, informal settlement in Versova Beach consists of two pockets: a permanent one with pucca houses (Sagar Kutir) and a seasonal kacca part made of tents. Families who lose their pucca home in a storm move to the neighboring kacca area until the rainy season is over. Then repairs can begin and people move back, or a new home is found somewhere else.

[1] The 1995 Slum Rehabilitation Act protects from eviction those who can produce a document proving they lived in the city of Mumbai before January 1995.

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