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Powai resident Nandini Gupta says she plans to start wearing a back brace to work. For, the 6-km daily commute from her home to the nearest railway station is literally back-breaking. “The roads in this part of the city are hellish. While the roads inside (Powai’s) Hiranandani Complex provide some relief, those around it are bumpy and unpaved. We used to call it rocky road but the joke is not funny anymore,” says Gupta, 32, a media planner who uses auto-rickshaw for daily travel. A trip around the S Ward, which covers parts of Powai, Vikhroli, Kanjurmarg and Bhandup in the eastern suburbs, reveals that besides the affluent Hiranandani complex near Powai lake, the rest of the ward is mainly “work in progress”.
Corporators admit Kanjurmarg (East) is dotted with irregular developments. In Bhandup, there are complaints of slum and hawker encroachments. The Lal Bahadur Shastri Marg — the region’s main arterial road — has several bottlenecks.
Local Congress corporator Suresh Koparkar identifies shoddy road work, incomplete roads, and lack of civic amenities for legal and illegal slum colonies existing on hilly terrains as the main issues dogging the region. There is a sizeable slum population that resides on such terrains in seven out of the 14 seats in the belt. “There are issues of water supply, garbage disposal, sanitation in these areas. During monsoons, there is a constant threat to life and property due to landslides. Along the foothills, waterlogging and flooding occur annually,” says Koparkar.
Supplying water and maintaining the adequate pressure to ensure supply to all serviced slums is another major issue, complain corporators. “With there being lack of water, people are forced to collect water in large tumblers giving rise to the perennial problem of mosquitoes and dengue, cases of which are reported through the year,” adds Korparkar.
Mangesh Pawar, who was elected as an Independent corporator from a Kanjurmarg seat in 2012 and has now switched over to the BJP, rues that restrictions due to the presence of ecosensitive salt pan land and mangrove patches hamper development work. The Kanjurmarg dumping facility is also located in his belt. “There is a lot of stink from the dumping ground. In addition, the salt pan officers don’t even allow us to make an efficient drainage system in the area,” says Pawar.
Lack of hospitals is also cited as major problem in the area. The Mahatma Phule Hospital in Vikhroli (East) is the sole civic hospital in the region. NCP’s Chandan Sharma, sitting corporator from Powai, says demands for another civic healthcare facility in the region have been consistently turned down.
While the uptown Hiranandani Complex, spread over 100 acres, was originally designed as a residential township, it has now transformed into a business and commercial hub. Besides lending a new dimension to the locality, this has also brought its own set of problems. Commuting through parts of Powai is a nightmare. Last September, local residents even launched an online petition to protest against the apathy of corporate shuttle buses, “ruthless drivers” and lack of traffic personnel.
“The disparity is clear. On the Powai hillock you have Hiranandani Complex on one side and the other side only has slums. The problem now with Hiranandani is that it has got overcrowded with residents from nearby even for basic amenities like a grocery store,” claims Samarra Duut, a resident of Hiranandani’s Somerset Towers.