Celebrations are in order for Andheri (W) Lokhandwala residents, who have been demanding expansion of a four-year old artificial pond, used for Ganpati immersion.
Dhaval Shah measuring the dimensions of the pond, which is currently dry. Pics/Prabhanjan Dhanu
This pond, extensively used during visarjan is currently 7m (length) and 6m (wide). Now, the BMC passed the motion for its expansion on May 26 in its ward meeting and says that it will extend the length of this pond by 5m, making it 12m (length) and 6m (wide).
Residents at the pond which is covered
The residents’ joy though is tempered by the fact that this pond, on the Lokhandwala Backroad is going to be extended by just 5m. They state that the pond should be at least 18m in length, which means an additional 6m in length to the proposed 12m.
The Backroad pond sees queues during visarjan when environment-friendly residents lines, stretch all the way on to the road, waiting for their chance to bid farewell to Mumbai’s beloved elephant headed God in a pollution-free manner.
“The number of idols being immersed in the artificial pond has quadrupled in the last four years,” said Dhaval Shah, a resident of Lokhandwala, and founder of Lokhandwala-Oshiwara Citizens Association (LOCA). Shah states, “There were only 500 idols immersed during the first year, but last year, we saw the number reach a high of 2,200 idols. If the authorities manage to extend it by only 5 metres in length, that may suffice for two years, but will once again have to be expanded, the year after that.”
Anil Garg, resident of Movie Tower building on Lokhandwala’s Backroad, said, “If you have a larger pond, you can accommodate the bigger idols, that currently cannot be immersed in the pond owing to its (the pond’s) small size.” Garg says that though this pond’s main purpose is visarjan, residents could also use it year-round for harvesting rain water in it during the monsoon, or breed fresh water fish in it, to make the fullest use of the pond.
“We don’t want to be bargaining with the authorities for every metre of expansion; we are not begging,” said Sanjay Parashar, another resident. “This is the only artificial pond in the area, and sees up to 40 families at any given time during a visarjan day. Expanding it will help in reducing waiting bottlenecks, but as more and more people are switching to artificial methods of immersion that are environment friendly, the pond will again have to be extended further in the next few years to accommodate the incoming idols. We want things to be done once in a five-year period, but done perfectly.”
Last year, residents had to put some alum-like chemical into the pond water to get rid of sedimentation, as the immersed idols were rising to the surface since the pond had reached its saturation point. “Expansion will help in making the visarjan process more like a clean, well-organised carnival, rather than a chaotic Juhu beach type of experience. It will also help reduce the amount of time people queue up at the pond,” says Shah. This pond has helped in reducing the number of idols being immersed in the neighbouring lake on Backroad, leading to a more widespread eco-friendly mindset.
Yet, civic authorities are wary of expanding the pond to the residents’ desired dimensions, preferring to stick to the proposed 12m in length. Junior engineer of K/W ward, Shubhada Joshi who is overlooking the expansion, said any further expansion of the pond might lead to restricted movement of vehicles around it. “The two roads around the artificial pond leads to a dumping ground and a Reliance Power sub-station, both of which require heavy vehicles to pass through,” she said. “Measurements have been taken till the boundary of the road, and if we extend it any further, it might obstruct the path of the road. Pond work will commence in July,” she finishes.