Fiona Fernandez: Make for Mumbai
As million-dollar deals are signed at BKC, how much will go to cleaning overflowing nullahs and slums right outside?
So, the whole world who wished to be seen and get on Page 1, 2 or 3 of Mumbai’s dailies, converged at the Make in India extravaganza at the main venue, Bandra-Kurla Complex, as well as other venues in the rest of the city. From the looks of it, the hype and buzz will continue for a while. Million-dollar business deals and investments will be inked.
For those whose commute involves passing through this office district, the ride is a study of contrasts. Squalor, clogged drains and sewage-choked nullahs dot the stretch from the Kurla exit. At the other end, the Mithi River, Dharavi and its surroundings offer a similar picture. And in the centre exist glass façade buildings that are home to banks, MNCs and IBM schools, five-stars and spiffy restaurants, all connected by broad, smooth roads — the kind on which even F-1 cars can zip past.
Before the blockbuster kicked off, we learnt that BKC underwent a cosmetic makeover in record time. Soon enough, all of this will be hailed as a big-ticket event in the city’s 2016 calendar. But do the benefits spill over to the area around where all the action took place, where heads of state and business heads struck sweet deals? Sadly, nobody wishes to look beyond the squeaky-clean precinct of BKC, to surroundings that lie barely 500m away from the buzz about making Mumbai a city of the future. Alas, these sections will remain the proverbial stepchildren.
Ecology and environment can wait. For decades, greens have been crying hoarse about the desperate need to pay attention to this sensitive zone in the city. Citizens will never forget the July deluge of 2005, when Mumbai sunk after the Mithi had swollen over its embankments. If that wasn’t enough of a warning bell, pray what is? We’ve seen near-similar scenarios in this part every monsoon; all at the cost of incessant, mindless development. Yet, authorities chose to look the other way. We are curious to explore whether even a fraction of funds or projects at this grand showcase that preaches looking inward, was diverted to clean up, safeguard and reassess the threatened surroundings of BKC. We seriously doubt it. Dharavi will continue to raise a stench, Kurla’s nullahs will choke till they spill over, while Mithi River will continue to flow, carrying with it Mumbai’s woes. India wants to reach Mars but who cares about using technology and the best brains to sort problems in our backyard?
Development is necessary, but not at the cost of shaking the very foundations on which it stands, were the wise words shared by a US design expert and city planner during an interaction recently. Give us Make for Mumbai, any day.
mid-day’s Features Editor Fiona Fernandez relishes the city’s sights, sounds, smells and stones... wherever the ink and the inclination takes her. She tweets @bombayana. Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org