Mumbai: Cell tower in park gets zero reception from Chikuwadi residents

Locals have filed a writ petition against the BMC and have started a campaign seeking the removal of the tower that has been installed in a public park; BMC says the installation permission for this tower was granted in April

When it comes to open spaces, Mumbaikars never shy away from picking up the cudgels to save their green lungs. Residents of Chikuwadi in Borivli are leading an agitation to save a local park from being turned into a harmful mobile radiation zone because of a cell tower, installed in the park since October.

The residents conduct an activity every Sunday to spread awareness to try and get rid of the cell tower (Inset)
The residents conduct an activity every Sunday to spread awareness to try and get rid of the cell tower (Inset)

In addition to launching a signature campaign, the locals have filed a writ petition in the Bombay High Court against municipal authorities, asking for the removal of the tower. Residents of the Lake View Society - one of the 21 buildings that surround the jogger’s park – started the campaign.

They have gathered over 700 signatures from the inhabitants of the 21 buildings that surround the park. They allege that the tower came up overnight on October 26. Hearing both sides of the case on December 3, the HC bench of Justice Revati Mohite Dere and acting Chief Justice V M Kanade said that the installation of the tower would be subject to further orders that they may pass in the petition.

The residents have asked for the work to be stopped at the park till then. However, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) says that they cannot stop working on the tower since the HC order does not mention the stoppage of any ongoing work.

Well or tower?
The petition filed by Lake View Society mentions the initial misleading information that was provided to them. A few locals who were at the park for a morning walk were told that the digging was for the construction of a bore well.

The petition says, “In the fourth week of October, some persons came to the park for digging. Upon inquiry by the people at the park, they were told that the said work was for a bore well. However, on the midnight of October 26, a tower was installed at the spot, to be used as a cell tower. As of date, the tower constructed on the garden does not have antennae or transmission equipment affixed thereon and is therefore not functional.”

A major grievance of the residents is the permission granted by the BMC to construct the cell tower in an area which has been considered, maintained and used as a ‘Jogger’s Park’ for the past decade. The 8,263 sq m plot was developed as a recreational ground under the Town Planning Scheme for the use and benefit of residents staying around it.

After learning about the cell tower, the residents got to know through Chikuwadi Residents Welfare Association (CRWA), that the BMC has granted permission for the construction of the tower. However, even after being the guardian body of the said garden, no permission or consent or even a No Objection Certificate (NOC) was sought by BMC authorities from the CRWA.

Speaking to mid-day, Sanjeevani Bhor, the secretary of Lake View Society mentioned how they took the campaign ahead and managed to garner support from the residents of 98 CRWA affiliated societies. “The movement started on the morning of October 27, when we finally came to know that a cell tower is going to occupy our green spaces.

I circulated the pictures of the tower through WhatsApp and soon, people started responding. Since then we have been meeting the society members, distributing pamphlets and putting up banners. We have managed to get over 700 residents to support the same cause.”

Spreading awareness
The residents have been conducting an activity every Sunday to spread awareness amongst the residents to try and get rid of the cell tower. On October 29, the residents created a human chain around the garden. Soon, they are also planning to do street plays and go for social media campaigns to spread the word regarding the campaign.

Recently, the citizens who fought to save the Veer Savarkar Garden in Borivli (West) and another group of eight housing societies have also joined hands with them. “Multiple generations have breathed the clean fresh air in this garden.

It’s full of tall trees and plants, which are home to several bird species, many of who visit throughout the year. This garden is not only green lung for Lake View residents, but also for 3,000 other locals,” said a resident of Lake View Society.

The Other Side
Milind Sathe, senior counsel for MCGM said that there is no stay on the work and the installation of the cell tower is subject to the final order of the HC. “According to the order, the work can continue till the final verdict is out,” said Sathe.

On being asked how the BMC was allowed to give permission for the cell tower despite an HC order in July, which clearly mentioned that the municipal authority should not grant any further permission for erection of mobile towers in any recreation grounds, playgrounds, parks and gardens, he said, “While the HC had said that no further permission should be granted, the installation permission for this tower was granted before the verdict in the month of April,” said Sathe.

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