Mumbai: Locals up in arms as Metro 3 gobbles up Prabhadevi park

Updated: Dec 29, 2016, 11:41 IST | Hemal Ashar

Walkers at Sane Guruji Udyan, Prabhadevi, are shocked that the Mumbai Metro work will effectively close off their open space. A protest was held on Sunday, against the move by locals in the park's vicinity

Walkers at Sane Guruji Udyan, Prabhadevi, are shocked that the Mumbai Metro work will effectively close off their open space, in a few days. The entire park and the adjacent Nardulla Tank maidan is to be taken over for the Mumbai Metro III line from Colaba to Seepz, earmarked for the Siddhivinayak station.

A protest at the Nardulla Tank Maidan
A protest at the Nardulla Tank Maidan

A protest was held on Sunday, where Prabhadevi locals held banners and walked around the vicinity to raise awareness about the ground being usurped for the Metro project. The protest though needed more traction and muscle for it to truly capture eyeballs and attention, like the Aarey agitation has done.

Also read: NCP leader's school gobbles up open space, and claims it is protecting it

A tree at the garden has been marked for cutting
A tree at the garden has been marked for cutting

Alternate site needed
Sukumar Damle, Secretary, Communist Party of India, Bombay Council was exhorting boys to stop playing cricket at the maidan, “join in the protests to create awareness. We are shocked that the Metro project will usurp a garden. There needs to be an alternate site for the Metro, why take away the garden and maidan? Why not first have dedicated lanes for BEST buses, instead of allowing so many private vehicles?” asked an irked Damle pointing to the large number of tourist buses, bringing people for Mumbai darshan to Siddhivinayak, which were parked in the vicinity.

Sports champs
For local Harshada Varandekar, this is nothing short of a “tragedy. You take away our maidans and gardens, and then you claim you want a Sachin Tendulkar and P V Sindhu? These spaces, however humble they may be are the stepping stones towards producing great sportspersons. Who can forget that Shivaji Park (about 1.5 km away) is the nursery of Indian cricket?” Varandekar feels there has not been enough effort to find an alternate location for the Metro station.

For, Prabhadevi’s Narendra Rane, “it will be a sad moment when I see these beautiful, majestic trees inside the maidan fall to the axe. I have been seeing these trees grow since the 1970s, I have grown up with them, they have provided the shade and succour for so many in their dark hours. Today, this park needs to be protected, it is a solution for those suffering from BP, high sugar, ill health. It is respite for the old, who perhaps find friends and some laughter here, in their twilight years, is the local sentiment. Rane scoffs, “First, you cut trees, take away the greenery and then complain about global warming?” A couple of locals in the protest shouted, “We dare Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to take away the Priyadarshini Park of Nepean Sea Road, for any project. First, take away parks from those so called important places and then, eye Prabhadevi.”

Tree felling
Zoru Bhathena, environmental activist who has been actively campaigning against the Aarey becoming a Metro shed said, “Once a tree is marked then, that means there is a green signal given to go ahead and cut it. I would like to know specifically, where all these trees are going to be replanted. We are not being given that information. It is no use cutting a tree in SoBo, or Prabhadevi for instance and then, going and replanting it in Borivali for example. Why are we not being told exactly where all these trees are going to be replanted?” he asks.

Locals feel that Prabhadevi needs a high profile, save Prabhadevi garden and maidan movement like Aarey has. It needs activism that has more visibility and traction, because it does not attract celebrities or names like the Aarey cause does.

More activism
Eknath Mane, one of the leaders of the “Maidan Bachao Andolan’ movement said, “The maidan and the garden, are going to be closed they say for five years because the ‘Siddhivinayak Metro Station’ is coming up underground. I am skeptical, these five years could extend to 10 or 15, knowing the pace of our projects and their track record.” Mane says that an alternate site could have been examined. “Did the Metro authorities have a public meeting with the people? Why are our corporators not speaking up or joining in this agitation?”

Mane says like the others he is not against “progress, for the city. Yet, we need parks and open spaces too. We need to see more activism to save these spaces. It is not enough for political parties to put up posters. They must come out on the road and to this space to protest,” finishes Mane, who also thinks that existing transport options should have been upgraded instead of adding a new transport facility to the city. The Mumbai Metro officials and spokesperson remained unavailable for comment despite repeated attempts to contact them.

Underground Line 3
The Mumbai Metro Line 3 (MML-3) is a 33.5 km long fully underground corridor with 27 stations (26 underground and 1 at grade) connecting Colaba to SEEPZ via Bandra Kurla Complex and is a part of the ‘Mumbai Metro Master Plan’ covering nine corridors with 153 km to be implemented in three phases. The Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) has been constituted as a 50:50 Joint Venture (JV) between the Govt. of India (GOI) and Govt. of Maharashtra (GOM) and is responsible for the implementation of this project.

Hand over Priyadarshini Park, says BMC
Stepping up action against private groups to whom the BMC had handed over plots for maintenance, the civic body has issued a notice to Priyadarshini Park for violating the lease agreement and undertaking illegal constructions. The corporation wants the Malabar Citizens Forum, which maintains the park, to give back the charge to them. In a notice issued on December 23, the civic body mentioned that two sheds had been constructed in the park without its permission. A senior civic official from the garden department said, “A synthetic jogging track has been constructed in the sports complex without the BMC’s approval. Even permanent structures have been built inside the park to be used as gymnasium, recreational and party halls. Commercial activities in the park are completely in violation of the agreement.”

General Secretary of Priyadarshini Park Susieben Shah said, “The civic body sent us a notice last week but it does not mention anything about violations. It states that they are taking back all the plots given to private parties under the adoption policy due to certain changes in rules. We have approached the court and it will come up for hearing on Tuesday.”

- Laxman Singh

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