mid-day garden audit: It's time for Mumbai to save its parks
While promising prompt action, Ajoy Mehta says citizens, too, should actively participate in managing the green and open spaces
Mumbaikars, our Garden Audit is over, and we want to thank you for your feedback. Now, we bring a request from BMC to you: lend a hand in keeping the city's gardens and open spaces clean - don't litter, don't leave the toilets dirty after use, don't vandalise property or damage children's play equipment, etc.
In the middle of bad roads, crowded commutes and erratic weather that Mumbaikars have to endure, the tiny open space in the form of gardens, which they can claim their own, is also under threat mid-day's campaign highlighting civic body's disregard towards these spaces elicited a ton of responses from readers. Most pointed to the gardens in their areas that were inaccessible, either because they were in a state of disrepair or because their entry gates were blocked.
Two years ago, the civic body had claimed that it did not have enough resources to maintain all the open spaces in the city. That problem seems to persist, because the gardens continue to be in a shambles. The civic body has now requested citizens to pitch in to keep the city's open spaces in top shape.
An open drain inside Patwardhan Udyan is a mishap waiting to happen, while the entrance
Here's what our readers pointed out
Patwardhan Garden, Bandra West
The garden at Linking Road, Bandra, was among those given to private players to maintain. However, once the BMC took it back, it promptly went back to its unkempt state.
While the entrance that opens to the buzzing Linking Road in Bandra is always crowded and blocked
In response to mid-day's Garden Audit, a reader pointed out the terrible shape this park was in. Sunil Khosla, a Bandra resident, said, "Heaps of garbage is dumped inside the garden, and there is a stormwater drain that remains completely choked, with the result that there is waterlogging in the park, making it impossible to take walks inside."
Sharad Ugade, assistant municipal commissioner for H-west ward, said, "The reason for the filthy waterlogging is a very old water pipeline that goes underneath the garden. We are already in the process of addressing this problem and shifting the pipeline, which will reduce the problem considerably. I will also instruct contractors to address the maintenance issue. However, when I asked my staff about the current status, they sent me photographs of the garden, which do not seem to display a poor condition."
The path that leads from the gate inside Picnic Spot Garden in Goregaon East is waterlogged and filthy during the rainy season. Pic/Ranjeet Jadhav
Picnic Point Garden, Goregaon East
This garden is very popular with regular walkers; however, the play area is dirty and in an overall bad condition, while the boundary walls are broken. After a reader pointed this out to mid-day, we visited the park and found it desperately requiring a thorough clean-up.
Despite several dustbins installed, plastic bottles and other rubbish was found littered everywhere. The walking tracks inside the garden were uneven, while the mud tracks were in a bad shape. The play area in the garden, which sees many children coming here during weekends, is poorly maintained, with the swings missing in two places.
Garbage strewn around the play area and elsewhere. Pic/Sameer Markande
Amit Pathak, a visitor to the garden, said, "This garden sees a lot of visitors during weekends and on public holidays. It just needs to be properly maintained. The walking track and play area are in urgent need of repair. Also, the lighting needs to be looked at as the park seems inadequately lit during the evenings."
Aarey CEO Nathu Rathod said, "The garden is in our possession, and we will see to it that it is properly maintained."
Morya garden is being revamped at the moment, but the dumping ground next to it prevents most people from using the green space. Pic/Sameer Markande
Morya Park, Mulund
This garden in Mulund is open and green, but the dumping ground nearby is a big deterrent to walkers and those wishing to get a breath of fresh air. BMC's decision to close the dumping ground and shift it once and for all is now taking shape - it is being moved towards Kanjurmarg. The process of scientifically shutting it down has already begun.
The Morya garden is also not popular with residents owing to its odd location, away from central Mulund. "The garden is along the Eastern Express Highway and can only be used easily by those staying across the highway. It is not approachable even for those wishing to take a quick walk there," said a local resident Rajesh Parimal. "The garden is well maintained and could do better with strict monitoring," said Shreya Ambre, another resident.
A Bhandup resident, Ankit Shukla, said Morya garden was good, but residents found the nearby Chintamani Garden in Mulund much better as it was easily accessible and situated amidst residential colonies.
While assistant municipal commissioner for T ward Kishore Gandhi did not respond to calls, BMC officials said there were a number of plans to further improve the garden.
Local MLA Sardar Tara Singh told mid-day that this was one of the best gardens in Mulund. "This is the only place where kids can even skate. Recently, we also put up a small train for everyone to enjoy. I personally monitor developments and complaints coming from there," he said.
A sign put up by BMC warns of snakes inside Swami Samarth Manoranjan garden
Shri Swami Samarth Manoranjan Maidan, Andheri West
The public garden next to Citimall on Link Road, Andheri West, has an entrance that is not even visible. Reader, Darrpan Mehta, from Andheri, told mid-day, "The garden has been ready for more than a year, but most people don't know about it and the path leading to its entrance seems very unsafe. There is debris all over it and it is lined by container homes of construction workers involved with some project nearby. If the BMC has spent so much money on building the garden, why not ensure that it can also be used? No one uses the garden because of these reasons!" He added that there were snakes, too, according to warning signs put up by the BMC.
The entrance to Swami Samarth Manoranjan Maidan in Andheri West is barely visible beyond the debris. Pics/Sameer Markande
Prashant Gaikwad, assistant municipal commissioner of K-west ward, Andheri, said, "So far, we have not received any complaints about snakes in the garden. We have our security person and gardener working there, but they have never told us about such a problem there. Further, about the entrance of the garden, I have asked my officials to check what the issue is and inform us about the status of work going on and get it resolved at the earliest."
A few portions of the otherwise well-maintained Horniman Circle garden are in need of attention. Pic/Suresh Karkera
Horniman Circle, Fort
Readers and visitors to the park pointed out that while Horniman Circle garden is otherwise well maintained, is clean and sees a high footfall, a few things needed to be looked into by the civic body urgently.
Kiran Dighavkar, assistant municipal commissioner of A ward, said, "Horniman Circle is being maintained well, but there are revamp plans for it from the heritage point of view. Once those are taken up, all issues regarding the garden will be addressed."
How you can help
An official from the garden department, who did not wish to be named, said, "We are told of instances where children enter the walkway and lawn areas, play about in the mud and ruin it for the walkers.
It would be of great help if the adults accompanying them could ensure that the children do not disturb the natural state of things. We have also observed that adults enter the children's area and use the swings and slides for fun, damaging the equipment specifically built for children. Citizens can also help by ensuring the toilets in these gardens are not left dirty after use. Some co-operation from the citizens will ensure that they can be enjoyed for years to come."
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation is currently maintaining more than 1,000 gardens, recreation grounds, playgrounds and open spaces. It has decided to reduce, and eventually eliminate, civil work in gardens and playgrounds, and focus on creating more greenery and open playground space. There will also be more focus on maintenance. This was promised in the 2018-19 budget speech by Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta, along with a huge budget allocation of Rs 243 crore. Mehta said, "We have been following mid-day's series and will be taking corrective action. We appeal to citizens, too, to take care of the gardens and actively participate in their management."
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Mid-day Garden Audit 2018: BMC bows to citizens' demands to keep parks open from 6 am to 9 pm