Vacation time means Mumbaikars head towards the sea to cool off and chill out. Rating the city’s popular beaches on parameters of safety, cleanliness and facilities
The Madh beach which is great for a day out or weekend getaway for those in Mumbai, who seek an idyllic day lazing on the beach, away from the crowd and chaos of the city, lives up to its reputation.
Clean and clear
Pristine, clean and beautiful the beach had only a few picnic goers when we visited and looked like a place far, far away from the city. Ramesh Madhav, a fisherman from the Madh village said, “The hotel employees, shacks and we, the locals clean the beach every Tuesday.
Beachgoers have a fun time at Madh beach. PIC/Prashant Waydande
For the hotels and shacks it is all about business. But for us we like a clean beach, after all it is our home and source of livelihood, how can we let it be dirty?” For Sushma Patel, a regular visitor, the 271 and 269 BEST buses are a boon.
She says, “My friends and I take buses from Malad or Borivali station in the morning, chill at Madh or Aksa beach, eat at local eateries and then head home. The beach is a great place for us to bond and have fun on the day college gets done early.”
Monish Walmiki, her friend adds, “While Madh is a little out of the way, the serenity here cannot be compared. Juhu and Girgaum Chowpatty which are within the city limits are always overcrowded and dirty, so going to Madh is a great option.”
No safety signs
The beach had no signs or lifeguards. When quizzed, local fisherman, Pramod Kaccha said, “The hotels send their lifeguards with the guests who come, but our beach has never had an incident of drowning. At Aksa, there is quicksand and so lifeguards and no swimming signs are there.”
Prema D’Souza who owns a shack near the beach said, “Whenever any picnic group comes to the shacks, we tell those in charge that they have to take care of their own groups as there are no safety measures on this beach. We do have a first aid kit at the shacks and in case there is any incident we can treat the person.”
Gola, dried fish and the sea
A solitary gola seller is all the food one can get on the beach on weekends. Unlike the food stalls galore on the other beaches, Madh is bereft of food sellers. There is a lot of dry fish available though. The stalls near the beach have cold drinks, ice creams, vada pavs and pakodas being sold.
Lalu Raman who owns a stall near the beach says, “On the weekends, the business does really well, many picnickers and tourists come to the beach. Now with the holiday season business is booming.” “We carry our own food and picnic at Madh beach. Lazing at the beach with no crowds is something that my family and I look forward to. Food is not an issue,” says Manoj Parekh, a Vikhroli resident.
Girgaum Chowpatty is SoBo’s go to place for college students, family, friends as well as canoodling couples.
Clear shore, dirty water
The seashore at the beach is clean. Children can make sandcastles and play with their beach sets there. The water though is dirty and emits a stink. Enthusiasts and picnickers though still go into the waters for a splash and some dash.
The view at Girgaum Chowpatty. PIC/Bipin Kokate
Rohit Yadav, a college student says, “If you come to the beach, you need to get into the water, or else it’s useless. Yes, the water is dirty, but once you start enjoying with friends you get over that.” Madhuri Pande and her children preferred to be on the shore.
The Grant Road resident says, “Now that the children have holidays we can come to the beach. We hire a mat and come and eat at the food court here, relaxing on the shore. I don’t allow, the kids to go in the water.” The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has regular clean ups at Girgaum Chowpatty, which started in the last few weeks.
Komal Khanna, a clean up marshal at the beach says, “We clean the beach every two hours and have orange vests, gloves, a trolley and a bin which we use when we clean. People tend to throw their foodstuff and drinks. The shore is easy to clean, but the water ends up getting the dirt from the sea which is difficult to keep clean.”
Lalan Thorat, another clean up marshal adds, “We have a garbage truck stationed here and at the end of the day, it collects all the beach garbage. The garbage is quite a lot as people prefer to chuck the trash where they are rather than walk to the dustbins.”
A great attraction for its food stalls that specialise in street food, Juhu beach is a great hang out spot for sev puri, bhel puri and kulfi fans. Besides the food, the beach is reason enough for many to come to spend a day by the sea shore.
Beachgoers spend time at Juhu beach. PIC/Ronak Savla
Dirty shore, clean sea
The story at Juhu was different to that of Girgaum. Here, the shore was dirty with rubbish strewn on the sand while the water was clean. That didn’t deter the beach bums though, with crowds thronging the beach for a sit as well as a dip.
The Baywatch Lifeguards Association at the beach. PIC/Ronak Savla
Sunita Singh, a beachgoer who was there with her family said, “Juhu is like a backyard for us. Vacation time means a weekly visit with the kids to the beach.” Cleanup marshals were on duty but the dirt on the beach was too much for them to manage to clean up.
The cleanup marshals at work at Juhu beach. PIC/Ronak Savla
Kishori Kumar, a cleanup personnel at the beach says, “We try our best to keep the beach clean, but it is a tough task because of the numbers. The dustbins are at a distance. They just chuck the garbage where they are rather than walk to the dustbins that are near the food stalls.”
No signs, many lifeguards
A huge beach of more than four-km expanse with no visible sign warning swimming is dangerous. The BMC has four lifeguards who patrol the beach. The police come on their bikes from Juhu and Santacruz police station for checks, but it is the Baywatch Lifeguards Association (BLA) that does the lion’s share of the safety work.
D Bunty Rao, a BLA lifeguard says, “The signboards were there earlier but they got rusted and it has been more than six months since they were removed, but sadly not replaced. With vacations started it means that many kids come to the beach. In the past week almost everyday has seen a drowning incident.”
Talking about safety and first aid on the beach, Sayeed Shama, BLA president says, “We have trained local sellers with basic skills needed to be lifeguards, so that they can save people.
With basic first aid pouches given to all the 250 plus lifeguards who are part of our organisation, if there are any injuries we address them on the spot. I also make our lifeguards clean the beach every morning. But the people cleaning the beach are far less in comparison to those dirtying it.”
Food, food everywhere
From the food stalls to peanut, bhel, kulfi, sandwich and other sellers along the seashore, there is no shortage of food at Juhu beach.
A visit to Juhu beach for Nandu Patnaik, a college student and his friends means playing on the sands, a dip in the sea and eating at their favourite pav bhaji outlet near the beach. Patnaik says, “I love coming to Juhu as you get the best pav bhaji ever here. The bhel puri and sandwich here is very tasty.”
Agreeing with him, Pooja Walmiki, a Jogeshwari resident says, “There is something that is totally different in the air which makes food at the stalls of Juhu beach taste so good. I love coming down here with my family or friends and just spending time by the beach and then hogging at the eateries. From ice cream to gola to bhel, the food stalls are heavenly.”
Huge safety signs
The stilt watch towers providing a platform for lifeguards to survey the beach, have signs right from the Charni Road section to the Wilson College section saying ‘Swimming is prohibited’. Despite this, many young people were seen venturing into deep waters.
Keeping Girgaum Chowpatty clean is a task. PIC/Bipin Kokate
Pratap Jadhav, a lifeguard at the beach says, “We keep a watch from the shore and at high tide about 15-20 lifeguards man the beach to stop people from drowning. Generally, in the evening people tend to throng the beach and end up going into the deep.”
Swimming is dangerous is clearly written at Girgaum Chowpatty. PIC/Bipin Kokate
Food court and more
From the food court to the local chana and cold drinks by the beach, food is in plenty here. With a wash room and water facilities on both ends of the beach, Girgaum Chowpatty is a tourist’s haven.
Always making it a point to eat gola and peanuts by the sea, Archi Desai says, “I love coming here to eat and spending time at the sea-shore. As a foodie, the food here at the beach and at the restaurants nearby is simply yummy.”
Agreeing with her, Prakash Lohia who had come to the beach with his family from Parel says, “My children absolutely love the food here - the paani puri, kulfi and masala fruit that you get here has a unique taste which we love. The sand is clean, the water is dirty but you can’t stop the children from wanting to dip their legs and have some fun.”