Lotus Lake is choked with discarded liquor bottles and plastic waste. Pic/ Nimesh Dave

A choked lake has turned into a battleground for two Congress and BJP politicos. Aslam Shaikh from the Congress and the BJP’s Gopal Shetty put up hoardings a month ago, taking credit for the proposed long-pending beautification of Lotus Lake in Malad’s Malwani. But the sparring means little for the lake, its surrounding area or the residents nearby. A fund of R3.85 crore for the redevelopment was cleared nearly two months ago, but the work is yet to begin.

Locals allege that the lake is a health hazard; it is being used a dumping ground. From plastic bags to empty liquor bottles, every piece of junk imaginable can be found here. The monsoon turns the filth into a death trap. Some residents allege that in the absence of proper upkeep, the lake has also turned into a den of anti-social elements. So, when the BMC cleared funds for its beautification two months ago, hopes were raised. But soon, the Congress and the BJP came scrambling to earn brownie points, pasted credit-hogging hoardings across the locality and began a political turf war.

We mooted idea: Cong
Shaikh, the Congress’ MLA from Malad West, claims that his party was the one that "mooted" the beautification of the lake. "We wanted to do it ourselves initially. I am already working on the redevelopment of a few similar spots in the locality. But since a larger fund was required for Lotus Lake, we wanted the civic body to take it up. It’s our persistence that got the project sanctioned."
He says the project will take off post monsoon, and entails maintenance and security provisions. "We will clean the lake first and after the rains abate, we will construct a fence and begin other works."

He trashes the BJP’s stake to the project approval, claiming that the Congress ward corporator’s efforts had procured the nod. "The BJP workers are taking lessons from their higher-ups on stealing credit from Congress. The ward corporator is from our party. Why should the BJP take credit for it? There are several decrepit spots in the locality that need sprucing up. They can focus on those."

We pushed for it: BJP
Shetty, MP from the city’s north constituency (comprising Malad), says his party had been "constantly pushing" for funding for the project. "Even though we do not have a corporator from the area, our representatives are aware of the locals’ problems and are working on resolving them. When the work begins, our people, too, will actively supervise the work so that there are no complaints in future."

Cagey locals
As the parties continue to lock horns, locals wonder if the project will ever see the light of day. Stanley Fernandez, an activist from citizens’ forum SOUL, says the beautification plan has been dangled before the residents several times. "There has never been a concrete plan of action discussed before. Every time the civic body releases some funds, a bit of work is done on the lake. But it falls into ruin soon in the absence of maintenance. He questions the ethics behind the Congress and the BJP’s tussle. "The project is the BMC’s. Why then are politicians claiming credit for it?"

Fernandez says the lake had undergone a beautification three years ago. "Gates and a fence were built back then, too. But none of it was maintained. There were no security personnel or lights. We have only a few water bodies left in the city. The civic body should strive to maintain them."

Sangita Hasnale, civic ward officer of the area, confirms that funds for the redevelopment have been sanctioned by the BMC. "The gardens department will be responsible for the lake." She refuses to comment on the tussle over credit, saying, "If any of those posters are found to be unauthorised, we will take them down."