Clearing clogged lungs of the city

At a time when open space is dying a slow death under the weight of concrete in the city,a citizen movement is gathering momentum in the 12.94-square-km F-North Ward.

Written by Smita Nair | Mumbai | Published:July 30, 2013 12:24 am

At a time when open space is dying a slow death under the weight of concrete in the city,a citizen movement is gathering momentum in the 12.94-square-km F-North Ward,which comprises parts of Wadala,Dadar,Matunga and Sion,to save gardens and grounds.

The ward between old-world South Mumbai and the growing suburbs in the north has some of the best-planned gardens. It has the most,20,planned gardens,including the well-connected five gardens in Wadala (Dadar).

For residents of Hindu Colony,which boasts gardens are its prime attraction,maintaining and renovating parks is the most pressing issue.

Since 2006,municipal authorities have sponsored foreign tours of architects to “study” exotic gardens. Their recommendations,however,have not been followed.

With residents protesting and awareness on the “needs” of communities around increasing,BMC finally called bids this year to renovate gardens.

“An expert traveled on tax payer’s money and returned with a plan to create a leafy skywalk through the trees in various gardens. It was immediately shot down,” said citizen-activist Nikhil Desai.

He and 599 other residents of the ward have signed a proposal for a fountain in the central garden at five gardens. They made BMC chief Sitaram Kunte understand the need for a live fountain in the garden this month.

“Installing red post boxes and yellow phone booths have been some of the other suggestions over the years. These are ridiculous ways to attract tourists,” Desai said.

“Open spaces are about a way of living. Knowing that we are custodians of green covers and have a responsibility. Open spaces are called the lungs of a city for a reason,” he said.

Desai said corporators who talk of amphitheaters had not ensured even basic amenities and fencing at the gardens.

Corporator Nayana Sheth (ward 174,where there are 16 gardens),however,claimed spending almost the entire fund available to her on repair of gardens and installing playground apparatus.

“I have kept notes of correspondence with 45 BMC officials,the matter is finally moving. We are told tenders will be floated on August 2 and the garden renovation project will come up before the standing committee. I have been told we are receiving Rs 8 crore for renovation of five gardens. Another Rs 7 crore will be released in installments,” she said.

Citizen participation has made F-North the only ward where the land beneath flyovers has not been encroached on and is being converted to a path for joggers.

Sporting grounds in Professor Chandgadkar Kumar Udyan managed by Hoopers Club also face serious problems. Nirmal Shah of the club claimed in the past few years,BMC had started encroaching on the grounds by building cabins for its staff. “These grounds support volleyball,basketball and other games. The encroachments reflect the attitude towards such spaces.”

Despite recurring civic issues such as water-logging and parking,F-North Ward continues to see redevelopment of old buildings.

Rakesh Jain of Sion said,“Most buildings are old and offer a great opportunity with a 2.5 FSI. The redevelopment wave is shifting from Parel to Matunga,Sion and Wadala with many landlords in talks with developers.”

BMC executive engineer P R Mhatre said most proposals to his office now were for redevelopment.

The ward office is monitoring New Cuffe Parade,an upscale settlement branded by Lodha Group as ‘South Mumbai in Wadala’.

R Karthik,CMO,Lodha Group,said,“New Cuffe Parade is in the heart of the city at a meeting point of monorail,Metro and Eastern Freeway,where MMRDA plans to develop Mumbai’s next commercial hub. Monorail connecting eastern suburbs to the business hubs in Lower Parel and Mahalaxmi and the recently announced elevated road from Sion to BKC will add to the connectivity of New Cuffe Parade.”

While towers will see a rise,the bigger issue remains planning of roads.

Corporator and former mayor Shraddha Jadhav said there were issues such as storm water drains. Waterlogging during monsoon at Gandhi Market is one of the worst in the city.

“The towers will grow and are not a problem,but the way the city is planned and the lack of wide roads are,” said P G Munde,Chief,Wadala Fire Station.

Most issues in the ward,including waterlogging,are due to delayed revision of water management and no revision of road infrastructure.

smita.nair@expressindia.com

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