ONCE infamous for its high incidence of crime and slum pockets, the M West Ward is now home to high-end real estate projects and multistoreys changing the skyline of Tilak Nagar while Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) buildings take over the former slums. But better roads and better traffic management remain top concerns for residents of the area, as also rising migration towards the developing pockets such as Sindhi Society, Mahul Gaon and Tilak Nagar, worsening double-parking along the roads and long traffic pile-ups on the Ramkrishna Chemburkar (RC) Marg, Amar Mahal junction, Chembur naka, etc.
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“The ward has the presence of three major chemical factories of public sector undertakings – Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL), Rashtriya Chemical Factory (RCF) and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Factory Limited (HPCL). A large number of lorries dispatched by these companies in the morning and evening peak hours jam the roads,” said Seema Mahulkar, Congress corporator from Anik-Mahul.
He also raised concern over the rampant dumping of garbage in a garden being constructed under the Eastern Freeway. “To meet the demand for more open space, we have selected a plot near the Anik depot for the construction of a theme park and garden for children. We have also built a compound around the area. However, people now dump garbage there in spite of several warnings,” she added.
The rapid realty boom in Chembur and Tilak Nagar has also put pressure on the infrastructure, leading to overcrowded streets. “At Pestom Sagar, the petrol pump on the Tilak Nagar-bound road has continuous incoming and outgoing vehicles. This further meets more traffic at the entrance to Chheda Nagar and further CNG stations. What once was considered an underprivileged suburb is slowly turning out to be the heart of the city,” said Rahul Walanj, a BJP worker from the area.
The region is also home to infrastructure projects including the Chembur-Wadala monorail, parts of the Santacruz-Chembur link road, the Eastern Freeway and the approaches to the Lokmanya Tilak Terminus. “When the monorail is extended to Jacob Circle, the population in M West will further rise. More planning is needed to manage the commute,” said Clement D’mello, an activist.
Improper maintenance of roads, sewers and water lines have led to rising incidence of dengue, malaria and other diseases. In fact, a report by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) on the ward says “settlement in areas including Ghatla Nagar and Vashi Naka has been characterised by precarious livelihoods”. The health condition of residents, especially in Ghatla village and Subhash Nagar, is very bad, say locals. “Proximity to hazardous industries in the area and the dumping ground are the major reasons, though M West is somewhat better off than M East,” said Mumtaz Sheikh, who partnered with TISS on the study.
According to BJP corporator Rajashree Palande, the area needs more civic hospitals. “As the population majorly consists of underprivileged people, better government hospitals should be encouraged,” she said. The new realty developments mean more trenching for fresh utility-laying. “What we are left with is snail’s pace movement of public transport in areas near Fine Arts theatre, Basant Park and so on. Pollution due to construction work is also rampant,” said Ruchira Kulkarni, a resident.
While residents in Chembur and Tilak Nagar have some parks and gardens, Subhash Nagar and Rahul Nagar still need well-maintained open spaces, said Walanj. Of the eight electoral wards in M West, three have Sena corporators while three more are represented by corporators from the Congress, and two from the Bharatiya Janata Party. The delimitation process has altered the borders of the electoral wards and reduced the total number to seven.