Not long back,H West was popular as queen of the suburbs,a picture of neatly arranged villas,bungalows,gothic churches,green spaces and a jubilant community culture. This has given way to uneven,even ugly,unplanned and haphazard constructions,encroached lands,hawkers and noisy,congested roads.
The blame is put on the civic administrations lack of a stringent approach to prevent illegal constructions,encroachments and hawkers. The suburb has lost its true character. The ward has areas of Bandra West,Khar West,Santacruz West. Hill Road and Linking Road,Bandras major roads,continue to be heavily congested due to illegal hawkers on the road.
Despite high citizen activism and increasing awareness on civic amenities,the civic administration remained a mute spectator.
The ward is home to high-profile citizens including film personalities and politicians and among coveted locations for restaurants,pubs and high-end eateries. It has been in news for demolition drives by BMC to remove illegal eateries. After heightened citizen activism and repeated complaints from residents,BMC had razed about 20 eateries and pubs on Carter Road in Bandra. In another drive in 2010,Bandra police had forced more than 20 eateries in the area to shut for three days for operating without license.
BMC drives against illegal structures or restaurants operating without license have short-term results.
The reported nexus between civic officials and private builders the area has rising commercial development,legal and illegal has come in the was of a long-term solution. As a result,despite protests against illegal construction,it continues.
There is a complete lack of implementation of anti-hawkers policy. Irregular structures are not demolished. There has been no programmed infrastructure development,with civic officials working hand-in-glove with builders who redevelop buildings without following rules of maintaining open spaces etc, said Aftab Siddiqui,activist and chairperson of a Khar ALM.
According to civic officials,the ward ward has around 4,000 buildings of which more than 40 per cent are due for redevelopment. There are over 840 Shop & Establishment licenses granted by BMC to shop owners,restaurant and pub owners. In March last year,the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) launched an inquiry into role of several officers of the H West (Bandra,Khar,Santacruz) for allegedly encouraging illegal constructions.
ACB found 23 officials helping such structures flourish. A departmental inquiry indicted five officials for either encouraging such structures or refusing to take action against them. Demolition of old bungalows along narrow bylanes for highrises resulted in Bandra losing its charm because of unplanned constructions and a host of problems.
The BMC has been unable to safeguard old structures as the civic administration delayed a proposal to notify 950 properties as heritage structures in the city. The ward has many such structures like Bandra Talao,Bandra Municipal School,Bandra Post office and churches.
The ward housing the cream of society is also home to many slums. There are an estimated 30 slum pockets in coastal zones. The slums put additional burden on infrastructure and civic amenities.
Following 50 per cent reservation,four of its wards are now for women. It is likely that only one ward will see a sitting corporator being elected again. Heavyweights such as BJPs Ashish Shelar will not be contesting the February polls.