With the declining number of open spaces in the city, residents of Matunga decided to make the most of what they have. Around 10 residents organised an activity-filled event on Sunday morning, right under the flyover of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Road between Dadar and Matunga.
After barricading the area from both sides, organisers set up different activities for kids and adults. Pics/Atul Kamble
Called ‘One Matunga’, the event turned the area under the flyover into a playground with more than 20 different activities set-up along the stretch. The event started at 8 am, with live band and music, and went on till noon. “Our aim was to get physical activity and games back into the lives of children,” said Achal Sarawal, one of the organisers.
The idea of protecting and beautifying this space had started two years back. Residents had approached the MMRDA seeking permission to save the space from encroachment. The responsibility of the flyover was shifted to the BMC.
While the civic body gave the permission in September 2014, it claimed that it does not have the funds to beautify the place. Residents wanted the space to be converted to a simple garden with benches and a walkway. The plan is in the pipeline as a long-term project.
Locals, however, decided to organise an event to make use of the space beneath the flyover. “We are just a handful of organisers. Along with our daily work, we manage to make our daily trips to the BMC and other offices to complete the legal formalities,” said Sarawal.
The event was financed by residents of the area, who also received sponsorship from local shops, developers and other commercial organisations. A resident supplied 50 jars of 20-litre water. Another resident, who recently shifted to Ahmedabad donated money after learning about the event on social media.
Despite the World Cup match on Sunday, organisers claim that at least 5,000 people attended the event. The roads on both sides of the space were barricaded and the right lane on either side of the road was kept for kids and adults to cycle and skate. Cycles were kept near the King’s Circle garden for children to use.
Every pillar of the flyover had a different activity. The area was divided into kids’ zone, health and fitness, art zone, indoor games, basketball, cricket, football, etc. Around 60 students from SNDT College, Matunga volunteered to keep guard at the barricades that were put up around the activity area.
“Our teachers asked if anyone wanted to volunteer, and I’m glad I agreed. It was so good to see everyone active on Sunday, which is otherwise considered a day to be lazy. You could see many families spending time together,” 16-year-old N Shaikh from SNDT College said.
“It was good to see people of different age groups coming to enjoy and spend quality time with families. It was just the kind of stress-free time and activities that I wanted my daughter to experience,” said Puvi Doshi, a teacher. Nikhil Desai, a retired mechanical engineer and one of the organisers, said, “We tried to make complete use of the open space.
I am happy with the huge turnout, despite the cricket match. We hope to organise the event once a month.” Shiv Sena MP Rahul Shewale said, “We are planning a similar event near Shivaji Park, and are seeking the necessary permissions for it. The city needs open spaces, and the illegal encroachments below flyovers should be removed.”
C J Bhosale, Senior Police Inspector, Matunga (Traffic Police), said, “Activities like these are always appreciated and welcomed, as long as it does not affect the traffic on the road, or cause inconvenience to motorists.”
Number of people that attended the event on Sunday
No of students from SNDT that volunteered for the project