Mumbai: Shivaji Park area gearing up for complete makeover

Exciting plans have been drawn up, site visits made, tetrapods are in place. Mumbai’s historic Shivaji Park area is getting ready for a transformation, but some niggling questions remain

Mumbai's historic Shivaji Park area is gearing up for a complete makeover. Residents have much to cheer about as authorities and citizens get underway to give Dadar Chowpatty a fresh leash of life a la Khar Danda and Worli Seaface.

How it may look
How it may look

The two-km stretch from Chaitanya Bhoomi to Mahim Fort, which currently resembles a huge garbage bin, is soon to metamorphosis into a beautiful waterfront property complete with walking and cycling tracks, a jogging path, green palm trees, art and fancy street furniture.

The node at Keluskar Road, all part of re-imagining the area
The node at Keluskar Road, all part of re-imagining the area

Even the momentous Shivaji Park Maidan, which lies in the heart of this predominantly Maharashtrian constituency, is getting a facelift with a brand new, uniformly tiled walkway and a grassy green, levelled maidan. A motley group of residents have actively pursued the plan for the last couple of years to have finally managed a nod from Municipal Commissioner Sitaram Kunte.

The Dadar promenade with areas marked out
The Dadar promenade with areas marked out

Also a consortium of architects, planners and structural engineers from the locality going by the name of Exigo has prepared a detailed blueprint for beautification of Dadar Chowpatty which has been presented to the commissioner. “We as local residents are invested in the area and would like the BMC to start work on this soon,” Shashank Mehendale, architect and local resident said.

Former MNS MLA Nitin Sardesai, too, has put his weight behind the project, having diverted a sum of Rs 35 lakh from his MLA Fund (prior to the state elections this year) towards the project. “This is the need of the hour and authorities better wake up to it.”

Speed of work
Though work on the maidan proposal has already kicked off with BMC having made an initial provision of Rs 1 crore . “We are now in the process of appointing an architect. Work on this front should move fast. The Shivaji Park walkway can be undertaken immediately,” Sanjay Ugade, Ward Officer, G North assured mid-day.

On the other hand, Commissioner Kunte has visited the Dadar Chowpatty site twice and has had several meetings with the Citizens Forum of G North Ward, Guardian Minister Subhash Desai and the local representatives. He said that he was “Committed to the project and would like to see it get off the ground this year.

A budget allocation can be made, but we are waiting for the Maharashtra Maritime Board to complete its job of laying tetrapods along the shoreline with a view to protect the properties facing the seafront. Also the blueprint presented by the citizens will require some fine tuning.”

Sardesai told mid-day that this tussle between the Maritime Board and the Municipal Corporation has been going on for some time now. “I had raised this issue on the floor of the house in the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly. In fact, we residents are so committed to the promenade that we had even managed to get a few corporates interested in adopting the project under the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) scheme in the event of BMC not pitching in.”

But fortunately Commissioner Kunte has now promised to step in and kick start the project. The Maritime Board, on the other hand, has finished installing tetrapods along 700 meters of the stretch beginning from Dadar Chaitanya Bhoomi at a cost of Rs 15 crore. “Before the onset of monsoon this year, our work will be complete,” Sudhir Deore, Deputy Engineer holding additional charge as Executive Engineer, Maritime Board said.

Tetrapods had become necessary as a protection measure to the buildings dotting the Chowpatty shoreline, after the cyclone that hit Mumbai in June last year had caused all access lanes and roads to the shoreline to be entirely flooded with water and filth.

According to Ashok Rawat, President of the Citizens Forum, “With the Mithi River having changed its course following the Worli Sea Link project, the seafront has got eroded and waves lashing at these buildings during high tide pose a huge risk.”

A case in point is Makdoom Palace in Mahim. The retaining wall of this building collapsed and the compound wall developed cracks thanks to the onslaught of the monsoon waves. During heavy rains, the buildings vibrate, Deore explained.

To protect these properties from further damage, the Maritime Board has initiated the process of laying tetrapods along the shoreline as an urgent solution. But locals are divided as to whether the tetrapod option is indeed a solution. According to architect Shailendra Shirodkar, who is also a member of the Consortium, and lives in the area, tetrapods have only isolated the seafront further.

“No survey or study was undertaken or any thought given to link and integrate existing shore access along with shore protection. Instead installing tetrapods has generated a stretch of land which, if we do not undertake the promenade project, will become a haven for antisocial elements.

This can raise serious security concerns for buildings facing the sea. That is why the promenade becomes all the more mandatory and should be addressed at the earliest.”

Local resident Tasneem Shukul who lives in a property facing the sea fears that the seafront will become a den for drug addicts and rogues. “I live on the ground floor facing the sea. Soon I am going to have security issues on hand. Also these tetrapods have been dumped in a very haphazard manner and are blocking my sea view.

I have lost my connection with the sea.” What could have turned out to be a beautifully integrated project offering both protection to seafacing buildings and beautification of the promenade, had the state government stepped in at the outset, has instead been taken up in a piecemeal and fragmented fashion with no single nodal agency overseeing and coordinating the project in a holistic manner.

Whereas the State Maritime Board has no money and has been maintaining all along that their scope and jurisdiction does not permit any beautification programme except protection of the shoreline, the Bombay Municipal Corporation till recently was dilly dallying about taking up the project saying it was not their responsibility to beautify the seafront.

Only after citizens exercised enough pressure to drive home the point that the seafront, if left unattended, would become a haven for antisocial elements, did Kunte step in.

Architect and Principal of Rachna Sansad Academy of Architecture, Rohit Shinkre maintains that the work needs to be done in an integrated manner so as to avoid wasteful expenditure.

“You cannot go about installing tetrapods without giving some thought to the approaches and access routes that would have to be worked out to the seafront for festivals like Ganpati Visarjan and Chhat Pooja. Right now they have just dumped the tetrapods resulting in all access points to the sea getting blocked.

We will have major issues on hand if proper access routes to the sea are not provided for.” With the municipal commissioner having entered the picture, residents are hoping things will get a little more streamlined and the project move in a cohesive manner.

“As we envisage it, the promenade together with maidan beautification will change the face of Shivaji Park forever. Citizens will have an opportunity to reclaim their lost seafront and enjoy the vast open sky,” Shinkre said.

Issues to be Addressed
>> Measures for beach regeneration to be included in the project.

>> Adverse impact of the polluted Mithi River outflow that tends to settle in the Bay without dissipating in the open sea needs to be addressed.

>> Festivities like Ganpati Visarjan that attract thousands of visitors should be taken into account. Project should make a permanent provision to accommodate them.

Dadar Chowpatty Promenade Project
>> Proposed Cost Estimate: Rs 40 crores

>> In a nutshell the beautification project will focus on retaining the natural beauty and basic character of Dadar Chowpatty which essentially comprises the seafront and the vast open sky.

>> A 2 km promenade stretching from Prabhadevi (Kirti College) to Mahim Fort with dedicated tracks for walking, jogging and cycling. Special spaces to be demarcated for the elderly and children.

>> Resting spots and decks to be created; citizen friendly street furniture to be installed.

>> Pockets of greenery with palm trees and shrubs to add vibrancy to the area.

>> Nodes to be created to allow access to the Seafront.

>> Special spaces to be demarcated to allow for festivities like Ganpati Visarjan, Ambedkar Jayanti and Chatt Puja.

>> Solar lighting, public toilets to help make the space convenient and safe.

>> Art installations using local fishermen nets and fishing boats to blend with the existing natural beauty of the placeincluding the vast ocean and open sky. 

>> The place must attract and cater to people of all ages from 8 to 88 years.

>> Paving of the promenade with robust blocks of granite, basalt stones and precast concrete elements to withstand the onslaught of high tide and monsoon waves.

Shivaji Park Maidan Project
>> Proposed Cost Estimate: Rs 5 to 6 crore

>> Walkway to be made wide and uniform with a single pavement design.

>> Walkway to be widened by 3 metres by extending inwards to the periphery of the maidan without reducing the actual area of the playground. Material to be used would be soft on the feet — Bitumen or Astro Turf Material.

>> The ground is used for cricket and football. It has eight cultivated cricket pitches. 

>> Currently, except for the area around the pitches the level of the ground is wavy and undulating. 

>> Water does not percolate to some parts and so there is water accumulation. The plan is to get the entire ground levelled and made grassy green (like a green lawn).

>> Greenery can be maintained via the four ring wells and one open well situated along the perimeter. These are perennially charged wells and can be tapped into for maintaining the ground round the year.

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