For the city’s green activists, New Year celebrations began early, after the BMC Improvements Committee shot down a proposal to turn the Siri Road walkway in Malabar Hill into a motorable road on Tuesday. This is likely to be only a brief respite, however, as the committee chairman plans to present the proposal again.
While those opposed to this project vow to fight till the end, it is past time that the authorities and political parties learnt to respect the wishes of the people. Even when certain proposals meet public outcry in the initial stages, or are later rejected by the authorities (like the Siri walkway plan), fresh attempts are made to reintroduce the same plans with a few cosmetic twists. Eternal vigilance is the only solution to this, but at times, even the most stubborn activism will eventually wear down in the face of persistent political muscle.
The open spaces policy is now at the centre of a similar battle, with the draft being sent back to the Improvements Committee after activists expressed unhappiness over the prospect of certain grounds being open for adoption by private parties. Their fears are not unfounded, because in the past, we have seen private organisations adopt parks and then restrict public entry there, eating into the few open spaces left.
The protest against the Metro car shed being built at the forested Aarey Colony was also a long and painstaking battle. Citizens who joined the Save Aarey movement thought they had won after the chief minister ordered a committee to look for alternative sites. And although the committee did recommend another site at Kanjurmarg, the state did not manage to acquire that plot, so once again, the burden has fallen on Aarey, where a smaller depot may be built to reduce the ecological damage.
Leaders should remember they were elected to serve us; they must learn to read and respect the public mandate. As we begin the new year, here’s hoping the authorities will now begin to give our voice strength, not drown it.
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