A Swachch Sassoon Dock initiative takes off

A Swachch Sassoon Dock initiative took off yesterday, amidst the vroom of brooms. The key is to keep up the tempo

It was business unusual at the Sassoon Dock in Colaba on a sweltering Friday, August 14 morning. Amongst the buzz of commerce, workers milling around, the catch of the day being taken away in handcarts and fisherfolk walking through the lanes with baskets, a makeshift dais saw a panel of speakers talking about the Indian Merchant Chambers (IMC) Swachh Sassoon Docks campaign which kicked off yesterday.

BROOM WITH A VIEW: Armed to begin the clean operation
Broom with with a view: Armed to begin the clean operation

The name of the campaign is self-explanatory. It is the cleaning up of the Sassoon Dock area, as part of the IMC’s Urban Development Committee initiative of the redevelopment of Mumbai’s Port Lands.

GETTING STARTED: Showing the way with the choice of weapon in hand, the jhadoo ki jhappi
Getting started: Showing the way with the choice of weapon in hand, the jhadoo ki jhappi

Shalini Piramal, president, IMC Ladies’ said that the “redevelopment of the Port Lands, offers a unique opportunity to re-invent our city by creating public infrastructure, utilities and public spaces that we are so short of. ”

WORKING THROUGH:  Michael Pereira
Working through: Michael Pereira

Even as a clutch of volunteers, reached for their brooms, councillor Makarand Narvekar said, “We must look at the dustbins and hygiene like the state of the toilets over here. Our PM started the Swachch Bharat campaign which is the root of all these campaigns and now we have to take full responsibility, we have to involve the community. This campaign is both inspiration and will give direction to our efforts. If you need anything, I am just one shout away, ” he said to applause.

POINT MADE: Speakers on the dais are optimistic
Point made: Speakers on the dais are optimistic

The Chief Guest Y Wanage, deputy chairman, Mumbai Port Trust, said, “Hygiene is linked to health. I hope this campaign sustains and it not just another photo-op. We have to ingrain cleanliness in us and it has to become part of our DNA, like we see it has, for the citizens in the West.”

STILL WATERS: Run dirty. A lot of garbage in the water too. Pics/SATYAJIT DESAI
Still waters: Run dirty. A lot of garbage in the water too. Pics/Satyajit Desai

As the volunteers started swishing their brooms, there was a quick vote of thanks by IMC’s L Kanodia, where he stated that there is now as effort to rate places in India in terms of cleanliness. “I am happy to note that Mysore is first, Delhi was close to the bottom even though it is the capital, I am sure Mumbai is languishing way down too.”

As the perfunctory flowers and photos went on, workers started sweeping the narrow lanes inside the Sassoon Docks with gusto. While initial enthusiasm is all very well, one can only wonder how long this campaign sustains, given the all-sizzle-then-fizzle of such initiatives in the past.

Yet, Colaba resident Michael Pereira, also working for the project stated that, “One way to keep up the tempo is to involve all stakeholders in it, weave the community of the Docks in this Swachch effort, that’s one way to keep it going.” Merlyn Monteiro, advocate High Court, and IMC member endorsed the sentiment that all stakeholders of the area have to be involved. She said, “We have heard from speakers today that the B.P.T. and municipal authorities will have to play a major role to continue the campaign, Yet, I think we should not leave out the fisherfolk, and give them the spur to convert their dreams of working in a cleaner environment, into a reality.”

Colaba’s Ramesh Daswani was optimistic that the campaign would continue. “This is not just a one off effort. Come in here tomorrow and you will see that the cleaning is on,” he said.

Given the track record of such trials well-meaning though they are, skepticism is in order. Yet it is as though all speakers talk in one voice as they echo, “Cynicism and doubt is all very well, because redevelopment of Mumbai’s port lands is a huge, tough task but we have to start somewhere.”

What do they say about well begun is half won? Or done, for that matter.

What this project means in a nutshell

Last year, the IMC’s Urban Development Committee took up the cause of a holistic development of the city’s Eastern front following the decision of the Ministry of Shipping of the Government of India, to free Mumbai Port Trust Land for development to add civic amenities for citizens of Mumbai. This year, Nitin Gadkari sanctioned Rs 52 crore for Modernisation Project of Sassoon Dock. This is the IMC’s way of complementing the Govt’s efforts towards the Dock’s betterment. They are looking at overall cleanliness, hygiene of the toilet blocks and upgradation of the retaining wall.   

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