Coronavirus outbreak: BMC takes over Nehru Centre for COVID-19 fight

Updated: May 07, 2020, 07:40 IST | Hemal Ashar | Mumbai

Delicate balance at the green science hub in Worli; Nehru Centre joins neighbours NSCI and Turf Club in pandemic fight

The beds that have been set up and ready for people in quarantine
The beds that have been set up and ready for people in quarantine

A slice of the verdant Nehru Science Centre in Worli has been taken over by the civic authorities for what Centre director Dr S Khened thinks must be for "an isolation centre, or for quarantine."

Khened said, "I do not know exactly for which. We got official communication a couple of days earlier that a portion of the centre's space will be acquired. The front portion of the Centre, just as you enter the main gate, has been taken. We usually use that space to hold Science exhibitions. We have also held a vintage car exhibition two years ago in that venue, so it is a massive space."

Centre officials said preparations are in full swing, with beds and mattresses and even mobile toilets being brought in. The Science Centre officials have tried to talk to those in charge at the site for details but without too much success.

They reasoned, "it is evident that the officials are extremely stressed and we are in fact, prepared for the worst. Authorities are working extremely hard to get this ready," they stated.

Khened said that the environs of the Centre are very green and will need to be maintained. "We need to have some skeletal staff inside to maintain the green patches, the trees, the many plants that we have. They need water and regular upkeep," he said adding that it was important that the Coronavirus facility is completely sealed off from the other parts of the sprawling complex.

The Centre also has skeletal staff quarters on the premises where currently eight senior officers are living with their families, "so it is vital that those who are going to be shifted into the facilities for Coronavirus, be confined to that space. I am sure this has been thought out and will be done," said Khened.

Physical space
The Science centre has moved its activities online, like most other institutions, with two virtual lectures scheduled on their YouTube channel on May 9 and May 11 respectively. The former will be a talk by Dr Vasant Shinde on Rakhigarhi Excavation and the latter is Dr Anil Kakodkar, on 'dealing with energy needs in the context of climate crisis'. Yet, said Dr Khened, "We will open again as a physical space when the government gives the green light. Children, the main visitors at the Centre, may have some apprehension about visiting since this will be used as a Coronavirus facility.

There is a great deal of wariness as the Centre is just next to the Jijamata Nagar slum area, which is a COVID hotspot. "However, with all the trepidation, we too understand that this is for the greater good, and everybody has to do their part in this fight," the director said.

Line up
The Worli area, with an unenviable record number of Coronavirus cases in Mumbai, is also being taken over as quarantine/isolation areas rapidly. Just around the corner from the Science Centre, the Nehru Centre, which is next to the Nehru Planetarium has also been acquired for Corona purposes.

S P Verma, Jt Director of Nehru Centre, said, "The two exhibition halls on the ground floor have been acquired, not the Nehru Planetarium. I think beds and other amenities will be moved in shortly, I do not know when exactly. We had been told to hand over possession of the spaces and have done so," he finished.

The Nehru Centre joins neighbour, NSCI club's The Dome and Mahalaxmi racecourse as an entire line of Haji Ali institutions, whose space has been acquired for Corona combat.

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