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The Covid19 Pandemic Highlights How Environmental Racism Has, Will Continue to Hurt the Marginalized

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Apr 6, 2020

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Image Credit: Vice

According to recent reports from The Hindu and Mumbai Mirror, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has begun cleaning vacant buildings in Mahul, Mumbai to use as potential quarantine facilities for those infected by the novel coronavirus.

Using Mahul as a quarantine facility, though described as something that will only occur during the worst-case scenario, is a terrible idea, considering the National Green Tribunal has called the region’s air not fit for human habitation, due to its extreme proximity to factories and refineries. Covid19 is an infectious respiratory illness that may cause difficulty in breathing, which is bound to be exacerbated by the toxic air in the region. Mahul is unlivable — according to a report in Vice, the water in Mahul is extremely hard, the perishable food rots within a few days, and there’s a constant potential threat of gas leaks, fires, and explosions.

If, according to the Assistant Municipal Commissioner, the situation does enter its worst-case scenario, thousands of patients will have to endure the difficult conditions that Mahul’s residents have endured for years, due to the BMC’s demolition and relocation drives. Formerly a fishing village, Mahul’s conversion into a factory dumping ground, and later — as described by the people who now live there — a human dumping ground, is textbook environmental racism. Now that an explosive pandemic has the civic authorities scrambling to find areas to quarantine patients safely, their failure at creating a livable habitat for those forced to live here is primed to affect people on a much larger, more painful scale.


Related on The Swaddle:

The Amazon Wildfires Are a Product of Environmental Racism


Environmental racism, or the “frequent siting of environmentally hazardous industries in predominantly minority communities,” is no new phenomenon — rearing its ugly head everywhere from Brazil’s Amazon burning to the lack of clean water in Flint, Michigan, U.S.A.

The Covid19 crisis only goes to highlight the deep discrepancy in living conditions that those living in contaminated areas must cope with. Research has previously stated that people living in poorer neighborhoods are more likely to breathe air that contains toxic, microscopic particles from factories, power plants, and other emissions — which leads to a higher prevalence of asthma, cardiovascular problems, cancer, and more disorders. Mahul is no different, and now thousands of patients suffering from Covid19 — the elderly and the immunosuppressed included — could suffer too.

Though it is common knowledge that human interference has hurt the planet severely, the people who will bear the brunt of a toxic ecosystem are often forgotten. Perhaps something as drastic as a pandemic is our final wake-up call — to question, protest and rage on the behalf of those made to suffer while we live peacefully.

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Written By Aditi Murti

Aditi Murti is the senior culture writer at The Swaddle, with an interest in cultural analysis, environment, and the science of mental health.  Write to her using aditi@theswaddle.com, or find her on social media @aditimurti.

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