The proposed Nariman Point-Kandivli coastal road seems to be encountering resistance at every turn. While Bandra residents’ protest against the proposed freeway got a big fillip with Aamir Khan’s wife, filmmaker Kiran Rao lending support to their cause on Independence Day, Versova residents told mid-day that they, too, have been opposing the project and have written to the BMC with their objections.
Residents claim that not only will the erection of columns for the road lead to the cutting of age-old trees and the digging up of lawns and jogging tracks, it will lead to the remaining shrubs living in the shadow of the proposed eight-lane freeway. Pics/Nimesh Dave
Residents contend that the 33.5-km freeway will pass right over their beloved, one-of-a-kind Nana-Nani Park in Seven Bungalows (see box), resulting in the cutting of trees and digging up of jogging tracks and lawns for construction of the stilts (columns). The shrubs that survive, they say, will have to live under the shadow of the eight-lane highway.
Hussain Indorewala, assistant professor at Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute of Architecture, who has been studying the coastal road project closely, confirmed the alignment. “According to the draft Detailed Project Report (DPR) released by the BMC, the coastal road will pass right over the park on stilts.
This means the stilts will be erected inside the park and it will be virtually destroyed. Tall trees will have to be cut and the park will lose most of its beauty.” Residents of Seven Bungalows, where the park is located, said the possibility of their beloved park’s destruction is giving them sleepless nights. This will hurt senior citizens the most, who go to the park to exercise, walk and hold laughter club and mahila mandal meetings.
“We were shocked to find out that the coastal road would pass over the park. If the road will take the form of an undersea tunnel beneath Juhu and Girgaum Chowpatty, why not have it underground here as well?
We have submitted our suggestions and objections to the BMC and hope something positive comes out of it. We will be happy even if they realign the freeway,” said Ved Bhasin, chairman of the Save Versova Beach Association, which maintains the park.
The Association had also undertaken signature drives in the past to register their protest. Another senior citizen, N K Bhutani who has been living in the area for almost 50 years said, “We are not against development. But this is the only park for senior citizens in this area. Where will we go?” Manohar Barolia, another resident, said they will do everything they can to save the park.
Additional Municipal Commissioner (Projects) Dr Sanjay Mukherjee, who is in-charge of the coastal road project, said, “I am not aware of this particular case. But right now, the draft Detailed Project Report (DPR) of the coastal road is in the public domain and people are free to register their objections. We will take a decision only on the basis of merit and as per the law.” The last date for submitting suggestions and objections is August 27.
Residents of Bandra-Juhu have been especially active in protesting against the coastal road:
>> April, Bandra Gymkhana: A protest was held here by the Bandra West Residents’ Association (BWRA) when there were talks of the coastal road being built.
Reason: The expected harm to the ecology
>> July, Carter Road promenade: Another protest was held by the BWRA and was widely attended by locals and activists.
Reason: Activists believe that the coastal road is only going to cater to the city’s elite and the construction of the Sewree-Nhava Sheva Trans Harbour Link will lead to better east-west connectivity, rendering the coastal road useless.
>> Independence Day, Bandstand and Carter Road: A protest was organized by BWRA and was attended by Kiran Rao and prominent names from the art industry such as Jitish Kallat, Reena Kallat, Shilpa Gupta, Shireen Ghandy. A large number of school children also participated.
“Interestingly, we were being systematically discouraged from organizing these protests,” said Darryl D’Monte, President, BWRA. “We not only received a call from the local police station, but also from the CID, Mantralaya and ATS on August 14! One of the participating schools called Durelo Convent got a call from the ATS saying ‘it is dangerous for children to participate.’
That is when 90 children opted out. It is clear that someone higher up wants the coastal road to go through.” Similar protests have been organised by Action for good Governance and Networking in India (AGNI), Bandra Bandstand Residents Trust (BBRT), Mumbai Waterfront Centre and the Fishermen’s Association over the past two months.
More protests by these organisations will be held at Juhu Chowpatty at 8.30 am on Sunday and at Priyadarshini Park on August 24.
Located in Seven bungalows, the 3,250 sq m (0.8-acre) park in Versova is home to several age-old trees including those of the Gulmohur, Banyan, Kadamb, Peepal and Ashok varieties. It was built in the 1990s and is maintained by the Save Versova Beach Association through donations and entry fees.
Lined with shrubs and flowering plants, the park also has patches of lawns. It has a jogging track along the boundary with a music system playing old Hindi songs to entertain joggers.
There are several canopied benches, enabling visitors to visit the park even in the monsoon. It also has fitness stations in multiple locations for youngsters. The park was renovated through the MLA funds of Ameet Satam last year.