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Fiona Fernandez: Light bulb moments

The initiative to light up some of Mumbai’s promenades needs to be backed by aesthetic and eco-friendly planning

A few days ago, this newspaper ran a story that the BMC has given the nod to beautify some of its seafronts — starting with Juhu, followed by Dadar and Gorai. The main focus of this initiative would be to light up the beaches on the lines of Marine Drive.

One is forced to jog our memory (and that of the reader’s) to the many times in the past when plans were floated and re-floated to spruce up and showcase the city’s coastline. From water sports to sea fronting cafes and guided night walks, we’ve heard it all and expectedly, had to witness it meet its end without little as create a few ripples.

While the process to issue tenders for the beautification of Juhu Beach is expected to begin from today, we would love to see this initiative be completed with intent and sustained effort, timelines included.

Considering the amount (Rs 50 crore) allocated for this makeover, it’s important that the end result does justice to the idea. The lighting, if done aesthetically and with logical inputs from expert town planners and designers, will propel these tourist attractions into safe, family-friendly destinations.

This columnist recalls a chat with Rogier van die Heide, artistic director for the Amsterdam Light Festival who visited Mumbai last year. He spoke of how good lighting design wouldn’t just beautify a city but also control traffic flow, and thereby prevent accidents, thereby adding to its reputation as a tourist-happy space. While die Heide shared insights into how the Dutch capital would come to life for this annual light extravaganza, he added that Mumbai could look towards organising a similar festival. He suggested showcasing beautiful focal points apart from illumination of streets and squares. Our next question was about the need to save and conserve energy. To this, the Dutch expert explained that such festivals can be a success in this day and age of climate change if eco-friendly ideas were implemented by the smart use of dimmers, for example. “The real intelligence from us light designers, is in the composition of it and how we can contribute to the public space, deciding when it has to be more and when I can also be less,” he reasoned, adding that lighting was a science as much as it was an art.

We’re looking forward to the realisation of this initiative to beautify the city’s shorelines with the hope that it is seen through till the end, and hopefully be the stepping stone for a larger plan to celebrate the metropolis as an island city. We’ll sign off an expectant note: a middle-of-the-sea restaurant, strains of rhythmic Koli or East Indian music in the background, a coastal-themed cocktail for company, and fresh catch from the Arabian Sea. Paints a truly memorable Mumbai picture postcard, doesn’t it?

mid-day’s Features Editor Fiona Fernandez relishes the city’s sights, sounds, smells and stones...wherever the ink and the inclination takes her. She tweets @bombayana. Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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