South Mumbai residents take on BMC over water fountain

Locals in south Mumbai have criticised the civic body's decision to demolish it, as the water fountain near Bombay Gymkhana helps several passers-by to quench their thirst

Fresh, cool drinking water is just the thing that Mumbaikars need to face the unrelenting heat still beating down on the city, but if the BMC has its way, several could go thirsty once the public water booth outside Bombay Gymkhana is demolished.

According to locals, people can be spotted drinking water or filling up their bottles from this drinking water fountain opposite Fashion Street, near Bombay Gymkhana at any point of time. Pic/Atul Kamble
According to locals, people can be spotted drinking water or filling up their bottles from this drinking water fountain opposite Fashion Street, near Bombay Gymkhana at any point of time. Pic/Atul Kamble

Ten years after it first gave clearance to the drinking water fountain, popularly known as ‘paani pyau’, the civic body has now decided to knock it down, on the grounds that the booth is not hygienic. However, social do-gooder Rani Poddar (who had set up the public water tap under the banner of the group Puncham) has now knocked on the doors of the civil court to save it from BMC’s hammer.

However, just one day before the demolition was to take place, Poddar obtained a stay order from the civil court on Thursday, arguing that the booth provides drinking water to several pedestrians and taxi drivers, amongst others.

Poddar, who has set up 11 such water fountains all over south Mumbai to provide drinking water to the public, said, “The pyau outside Bombay Gymkhana was built in the year 2005, and the late Mr Gopinath Munde had inaugurated it. The pyaus quench the thirst of the general public.”

On October, she received a letter revealing the BMC’s (A ward) decision to tear down the structure, after the civic body’s Heritage Committee indicated that the booth was unhygienic, as people were also using the water to wash their tiffin boxes and other utensils.

Poddar said, “When this pyau was built, I got permission from the Traffic department, as well as the BMC. I built it using my own money; I pay the electricity and water bills every month. I invested my money to make this for common people and now they are going to demolish it. Has the BMC made any pyau for the public?”

Jagnath Yadav (30), a local taxi driver, said, “I have been driving my taxi for 10 years, and have been drinking water from this booth in all that time. Not only me, several people who come to Fashion Street, or taxi drivers and pedestrians passing by the area drink water here. People like us can’t afford mineral water bottles and we rely on water fountains.”

Thirst quencher
Govind Goge (52), a private driver who passes by the water fountain every day, said, “I always come by to drop my employer here and then drink water from the fountain. It is wrong of the BMC to break it down, because you will see someone or the other drinking water here around the clock.”

While it is unclear what course the BMC will take next, according to advocate Abha Singh, who argued against the demolition in court, the judge had also agreed that the water fountain could not be torn down until some other arrangement was made for the common public in the area.

“All the people coming from CST and Churchgate drink water from this booth. The judge also pointed out that even though there is another booth on the same street, it is not working, and the BMC can’t tear our pyau down until the other one is fixed,” Singh said.

Down the drain
The BMC had earlier demolished three other water booths in the city. The first was at the National Sports Club Of India in Worli, which was demolished when the roads had to be widened.

Another was at the Tata Garden, which was knocked down because a nearby garbage dump made the conditions unsanitary. The third one, at Mahalaxmi, was torn down without the civic body providing any reason, claimed Rani Poddar.

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