The board at the main entrance of S K Patil Udyan opposite Charni Road station states that the project of fixing the underground water tunnel will be completed on February 17, 2012. However, five months hence, the slides, swings and every other feature of the garden is still in a mess.
The major portion of the garden is inaccessible, covered with sheets because of the ongoing work since October 2007. JCBs and other machines are seen parked in one of the only remaining open spaces in South Mumbai.
“The city doesn’t have much open spaces left. Although we have this place, it is not fully accessible. We don’t know when we will get back the garden. Many have even lost hope,” said S Thakur, a senior citizen and local of Girgaum.
The BMC, in response to an RTI query enquiring about the garden’s opening date, has replied ‘work in progress’. The civic body is noncommittal on the opening date of the garden located in the Marathi heartland of Girgaum.
On December 17 last year, MiD DAY had reported how the BMC had already spent Rs 142 crore for the construction of the water tunnel beneath the garden and its renovation. Now an RTI enquiry has revealed that the BMC has asked for an extra Rs 10 crore for the project, and garden is in a much worse condition than it was six months ago.
The RTI was filed by Mansoor Darvesh, a resident of Jogeshwari, who is also a regular at the garden. “In December the BMC had said they would finish the work in February. Now they are saying it is a work in progress. If this is their response, then I doubt whether they will ever hand the garden back to the public,” said Darvesh.
While a small portion of the garden is still usable, locals do come here, but they are distressed. “We start walking, but after a few steps it’s over. There used to be a separate place where kids used to play; it had swings and slides. All of them are gone now. The completion date keeps getting deferred with every passing year,” said a resident of Girgaum who didn’t wish to be named.
The RTI reply sates that the restoration of the garden is not the Hydraulics department’s job, and instead the Garden department should be asked about it. The tunnel size is of nearly 3.5 kilometres, and is being built with an aim to provide water to the south Mumbai area.
S Karvande, deputy municipal commissioner, Gardens, said, “The SK Patil garden hasn’t been handed over to us yet for any reinstatement. We will reinstate the garden the day we get it.”
In spite of repeated attempts, R Bambale, chief engineer, BMC Hydraulic department remained unavailable for comment.