Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao, celebrated singer Lata Mangeshkar, industrialist Mukesh Ambani, Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta and thousands of others live in some of Mumbai’s most regal properties that are within the boundaries of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s administrative ‘D Ward’. The ward is also home to those residing in some less well-heeled areas. And the biggest problem for the civic body in Malabar Hill, Walkeshwar, Pedder Road, Gamdevi and Girgaum areas is one of disparity.
Congress corporator of Ward 210 Nosher Mehta says many problems for a section of residents of D Ward, especially those residing in Sleater Road, Grant Road and Girgaum, are rooted in a “preferential treatment” to Malabar Hill and Pedder Road, home to Mumbai’s elite. Mehta alleges that the BMC deliberately neglects some areas in the ward.
“Despite living in the same ward, while Malabar Hill is given the best of services, residents of areas such as Bellasis Road, R S Nimkar Marg are made to feel like second-class citizens. For instance, while Malabar Hill is cleaned three times a day, other congested areas are only cleaned once in the morning. The problem is especially visible in market areas, which remain filthy for the entire day until it is cleaned the next morning,” he says.
Mehta accuses the BMC of having created a social divide among people, “which is very obvious in D Ward”. Divided into seven electoral wards, D Ward occupies 8.22 square kilometres overlooking the Arabian sea.
The better maintained areas have their share of civic problems too — uneven pavements, unauthorised hawkers, lack of parking space etc. Congress corporator Shantilal Doshi of Ward 216 points out that footpaths along Vitthalbhai Patel Marg near the CP Tank Circle, near the Phadke Ganpati Mandir, as well the pavements opposite Alankar Theatre are all in a poor condition. “People, especially senior citizens, find it difficult to walk on the footpaths and often trip. It’s worse during monsoon when the blocks become loose and are further damaged due to poor construction using paver blocks and lack of proper maintenance,” says Doshi. Incidentally, Ajoy Mehta admitted at a recent press conference that he was afraid of letting his parents walk on the footpaths.
Doshi says pedestrian movement is also affected by the large number of hawkers on the roads. “The hawkers have occupied all the footpaths as well as part of the roads leaving no space to walk or park vehicles. The situation is especially worse in the metal and diamond markets in Khetwadi and Sikka Nagar,” he says.
Doshi says encroachments department of the BMC does not take regular action despite repeated complaints.
According to the civic body’s latest environment status report, 6 per cent of the drinking water samples from D Ward were found unfit for consumption in 2015-16, which is more than the city’s average of 4.6 per cent.
Shiv Sena corporator Surendra Bagalkar of Ward 215 agrees the problem of water contamination persists in certain areas. He, however, claims the situation is improving. “Even though the BMC has managed to replace old water pipes with new connections from the main lines in several areas, the chawls in Girgaum, on Lamington Road and in Khetwadi have house gullies and the residents still complain of dirty water…,” says Bagalkar.
According to officials in the solid waste management department, around 87 per cent of the houses are covered under the door-to-door collection scheme. “We have been working to improve the situation in the slums and have given out free dustbins. We are working to convert the slum areas near Banganga and JP Nagar into zero garbage areas,” says BJP corporator Jyotsna Mehta.
Currently, three of the seven wards are represented by Shiv Sena while BJP and Congress have corporators in two electoral wards each. Previously, five of the seven electoral wards were represented by open category candidates and two were reserved for women. After the recent delimitation, the number of wards has been reduced to six, of which only one is an open category seat. The remaining are all reserved for women from various categories.