As the sun sets, Juhu beach comes alive, bathed in colours. The recent initiative by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to light up a 4.5-km stretch of the beach with 100 decorative lights has given the place a facelift.
Using LED bulbs, the programmable lights change colours while creating an illusion of sailboats in the water. “We are using programmable lights, which are operated by a software and controlled from the control room at the beach. Through the software, we can control the lights for their colour, time period and even choose a theme for special occasions like Independence Day or Republic Day,” said a BMC chief engineer working on the project.
Constructed at a cost of around Rs 19 crore, four LED bulbs of 70 watts each are mounted on each pole that is coated with anti-corrosive material. The lights are switched on after sunset around 6.30 pm and switched off by 7 am. For the first two hours, the coloured lights are played. Post that only the pathway lights are kept on until midnight. They are then dimmed to the lowest intensity until 5 am when joggers hit the beach and are switched off by 7 am.
“There are two settings for the lights — dusk to dawn and timer. We have set the timer for the evening. However, in the morning, under the dusk to dawn circuit, the lights switch off automatically when the rays of sun hit them,” explained an engineer.
Using ‘GOBO projectors’, the BMC also uses these lights to spread social messages. “We insert a small film into the projector and the message is then projected onto the water or the sand,” added the engineer. Apart from ‘beautification’, the lights have also helped improve the safety and security of the area. For regular beach visitors, it has come as a welcome break from the dimly lit stretch, which over the years had become a hangout for anti-social elements.
“The lights have made the beach safer. Now, there is light through the night. Also, it may not have increased footfalls on the beach but it still adds beauty to the place. Our only concern was that it should not affect the sanctity of the beach and that it should be maintained in the future,” said Ashoke Pandit, convener of NGO Save Open Spaces, who had earlier opposed the project over fears it would ruin the beach’s natural beauty.
Similarly, the BMC has also lit up the statue of Maratha king Shivaji on the southern end of the beach with warm white lights and a six-foot artificial ‘Media Tree’ with colourful lights on its branches.
However, the project too has found opposition among environmentalists, who have raised the issue of ‘light pollution’. According to a study by Awaaz Foundation, the presence of artificial lights disturbs the sleep cycle in humans and also the food chain as organisms which hunt for food in light are at an advantage against those who do so in darkness.
“The lights should be switched off after 10 p m as many people prefer to sleep by that time. Keeping it on late in the night will disturb people’s sleep. Residents have also been complaining they cannot see the moon and stars now. They should also consider reducing the intensity,” said Sumaira Abdulali, founder, Awaaz Foundation.