The Dahisar river on the edge of the city was once so scenic that people built their holiday homes along its banks, as did Indira Bhende’s family, in 1947-48. Now, the river is little more than a sewer. However, Bhende and other local residents have now stepped up their initiative to save the river and a patch of mangroves around it and transformed it into an area-wide citizens’ movement.
The river now reeks and its course is choked with plastic and garbage. However, Bhende’s efforts to create awareness are slowly showing results with more locals now willing to come forward and join the initiative.
“The area was beautiful, thanks to the Dahisar river and the greenery around. However, in the 1980s and 1990s, untreated sewage was emptied into the river. If the civic body had taken efforts to filter the sewage water before releasing it into the Dahisar river, this wouldn’t have been the situation today. What we are fighting for now is for the river to be cleaned,” says Bhende, a clinical psychologist by profession.
According to Bhende, in March, the river resembles a large dry gutter. Engorged by small rivulets, the river flows through Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Borivali East, through the slums and other unorganised structures in Dahisar, cuts across to the western edge of the suburb and finally empties into the Mira-Bhayander creek.
On the way, it picks up garbage and plastic from slums and effluent released by workshops. Municipal storm-water drains also empty into the river.
Bhende herself prepared and submitted a project on rejuvenation of the Dahisar river to the MMRDA’s heritage committee in 2002. While the committee found the project feasible, it was not taken forward, citing lack of technical knowledge.
However, residents are now closely watching the recent Dahisar river rejuvenation plans announced by the state government, which include creation of a mangrove park around the river. “The state government should take residents into confidence and take their suggestions before chalking out rejuvenation plans. This never happens,” says one resident.
Hairsh Pandey who is the president of the New Link Road Residents’ Forum (NLRRF) which has also joined the efforts to save the mangroves says, “Earlier, there was no awareness on this issue. Residents were not even bothered. However, the initiative by the locals to save the Dahisar river and the mangroves around has started gathering support.”
With so many groups and residents joining the cause, Bhende believes her dream of restoring the old glory of the Dahisar river is now coming true. On March 6, local students and the former students’ association of the Borivali Education Society will organise a ‘river march’ to create awareness about the river rejuvenation project.