mid-day editorial: Mumbaikars have first right on the city
At a time when more and more open, green spaces in the city are being swallowed up in the name of ‘development’, Sunday morning saw a large group of south Mumbai residents gather to protest a similar threat to Malabar Hill’s Kamala Nehru Park, where at least 70 trees face the axe for the proposal to convert Chiranji Loyalka Marg or the Siri Road Walkway into a motorable road.
Locals said the plan would deprive the prime area of its green cover and also affect the amphitheatre and children’s playground at Kamala Nehru Park.
This has become a familiar pattern — every time a new project is announced, it leads to a tug of war between the residents and authorities. In fact, this development versus environment debate is part of the urbanscape all across the world. Yet, so many cities — especially in the West — have been able to strike that perfect balance and push for development without sacrificing heritage or environment.
Here, citizens have to exercise constant vigilance to preserve the few open spaces and sparse green cover that we have. It is a thankless, frustrating and often, time-consuming process. One fails to understand why people are repeatedly forced to fight for what is rightfully theirs.
To compound matters, there is little or no information to be had; locals learn about proposed projects or infrastructure through reports in the media. Or, one person may hear about a plan and then mobilise people to protest. Let citizens at least be informed about proposed projects by local leaders. The people must be factored in from the beginning.
Authorities need to balance environment and development. Earlier, too, people have seen that trees that have been cut for ‘development’ are not re-planted as promised. It is little wonder then, that people look on all such proposals with a hefty dose of cynicism.
Let there be more transparency and clarity for locals when such initiatives are announced. Only this will build a sense of unity amongst the people and politicians.