Sitting on a Time Bomb

A floating population and home to some of the oldest commercial hubs like Bhendi Bazaar and Crawford Market,C-Ward is an urban planner’s nightmare.

Written by Mihika Basu | Published: August 27, 2013 1:26 am

With the highest population density of 1,19,988 per square km in the city,a floating population and home to some of the oldest commercial hubs like Bhendi Bazaar and Crawford Market,C-Ward is an urban planner’s nightmare.

With 1,091 illegal constructions recorded between 2008 and 2013,52 dilapidated buildings and narrow and congested lanes and bylanes,complete lack of planning and development of the ward makes it vulnerable to disasters like fires,building collapses and other such accidents. Areas like Chandanwadi,Pydhonie,Mumbadevi,Girgaum,Azad Maidan,J J Marg and part of Marine Lines,among others,come under this ward,which has a population of 1,65,583 with 36,656 households.

The smallest of the 24 wards in the city with an area of 1.38 square km,C-Ward sees massive influx of people daily as it is home to 38 wholesale markets for diamonds,electronic goods,jewellery,gold,hardware,umbrellas,stationary,paper,medicines and clothes. Accordingly,lack of open and green spaces,lack of proper parking facilities and pedestrian bays are major concerns plaguing the ward.

According to BMC’s flood preparedness guidelines,2013,the ward has no parking lots or fire stations.

“It is the smallest ward in the city and yet the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is unable to manage it and deliver the desired results. There are plenty of illegal constructions happening in the C-ward,both residential and commercial,and it is done in collaboration with civic officials. They are lenient towards such activities and a party to them. Such constructions are a threat to the life of the people living there and those who visit the markets. Due to such illegal activities,the water and sewerage connections too are illegal and this creates an additional load on the infrastructure. Simultaneously,the house gullis (narrow lanes between houses) are filthy. There is complete mismanagement on all fronts in the ward by civic officials,” said Amin Patel,Congress MLA from Mumbadevi constituency.

Besides residential and commercial structures,the narrow alleys and roads are lined up with encroachments,causing further congestion and parking woes. A cylinder blast two years ago,which claimed five lives and injured 25 when a CNG cylinder exploded in a scrap shop in Bhendi Bazaar,highlighted the dangerous living and working conditions of the people in the ward. It brought to light numerous unauthorised shops,including auto-spare part shops,and commercial manufacturing units handling hazardous waste. A proposal to survey and inspect the ward has been pending with the BMC for over two years.

“There are severe fire safety violations,including illegal construction in the areas of Bhendi Bazaar,Crawford Market etc. A majority of commercial units use gas cylinders,petrol,oil and other hazardous chemicals. While top floors in a structure are mostly for residential use,there are smaller shops in basements which function as manufacturing units and pose as a danger for residents. Although the fire department conducts inspections on a routine basis,it is very difficult to completely crack down on such units,” said P S Rahangdale,deputy chief fire officer.

While a BMC survey currently registers the number of illegal buildings as 39 in the C-ward,experts say the number is an eye-wash. They allege that major re-development plans have been lying in the cold storage because of the apathy of the policymakers. For instance,the controversial Crawford Market redevelopment project,approved by the BMC in 2007,was scrapped by the civic body in 2012. Yet another ambitious redevelopment project at Bhendi Bazaar has finally started taking shape,five years after it was first proposed.

According to data provided by the four councillors of the C-ward,most of the ward committee and councillor’s funds for 2012-13 have been utilised by them. “C-Ward houses major markets and there is a huge floating population. Also,there is no scope of road widening or new developments. All these factors lead to congestion. I have used majority of my funds on repairing roads and improvement of house gullis,” said Yakub Memon,C-Ward councillor.

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