Garbage woes in south Mumbai: Trash pile up behind Babulnath temple haunt residents

Mar 06, 2014, 09:28 IST | Hemal Ashar

A broken-down structure in the area has become a dump, with its growing mound of debris. It is spawning rats and mosquitoes in one of the city’s swishest residential pockets 

The traffic roars outside Babulnath Mandir on a busy afternoon. Cars stop, waiting to veer off towards Chowpatty or continue on towards Walkeshwar. Behind the mandir and the hurly-burly are leafy, lanes of residential housing that give some respite from the noise.

The building at the corner of the lane. Pics/Bipin Kokate
The building at the corner of the lane. Pics/Bipin Kokate

These lanes house predominantly low storeyed structures, though one or two tall buildings are attest to the city’s changing landscape. There is a BKM English School in the vicinity and two hospitals. Enter the 2nd Dady Seth Lane and one is assailed by an overpowering stench of garbage.

The structure with a broken gate and filth pouring out
The structure with a broken gate and filth pouring out

A derelict two-storey structure, now in ruin has become a breeding ground for rats and is reason for the stink that is all-pervasive. The residents are clueless about what can be done to stem this rot.

Rats enter parked cars and eat the wires
Rats enter parked cars and eat the wires

They claim that several appeals to the BMC have gone in vain, as the BMC cleans the area surrounding the structure but says it cannot enter inside the building. One resident says, “I have seen people from around the area coming in here and simply flinging their garbage inside.

A Pandey points out at the problem
A Pandey points out at the problem

In time, this has turned into a huge dump.” When this reporter visited the site, garbage was piled at least three feet high and the photographer was upto his knees in the filth as he went in to take pictures of the mound of rubbish overflowing outside the structure located opposite the BKM High School, on the corner of 2nd Dady Seth Lane.

Got debris? Dump it here, seems to be the mantra
Got debris? Dump it here, seems to be the mantra

Said Shobhana Anand, principal, BKM school, “This garbage is a breeding ground for disease and illness. I have personally written several letters to the BMC that this should be cleared up, but to no avail. At least build a wall around these premises so that residents do not suffer and people are unable to fling garbage into this place.

 Principal Shobhana Anand and parents of children of BKM School point to the structure
Principal Shobhana Anand and parents of children of BKM School point to the structure

I have been seeing this derelict structure for at least eight years now, I think.” Parents who had come to school to pick up their children studying in the institution wrinkled their noses at the smell. They expressed concern at the health hazard the building has become.

 Babulnath area, is one of Mumbai’s swish residential addresses with a mix of the old and the new
Babulnath area, is one of Mumbai’s swish residential addresses with a mix of the old and the new

The security personnel at the adjacent Tej Kiran residential building said they have seen scores of rats breeding in the filth. “Rats have become a menace in this entire lane and they can be seen here at all times scurrying around.”

The security states that just recently there was a snake in the building and while the rubbish may not be the reason for the snake as there is some foliage behind the building too, “Even if 50 snakes go into the building and hide there in the rubbish, nobody would be able to see them,” they state angrily.

While that may sound alarmist, Tej Kiran residents say that the dump is also a major fire hazard as so many passersby toss cigarettes which may not be fully extinguished. The huge amount of paper, plastic, dry waste there is inflammatory. Residents have also spotted people sitting inside this building at times, smoking cigarettes.

“There was a small blaze here, some time ago, which luckily, people could control, yet it is evident that this place is a ticking time bomb,” says Avadhesh Pandey, manager Tej Kiran building. In the monsoon, problems are compounded.

Says well-known fashion designer Misbah Mitha, who resides in the Garden View building adjoining this building which does not have a nameplate, “this is the abysmal condition for years now. The rat menace has been increasing through the years. Years ago, my father, Arshad Merchant who lived in this house passed away from leptospirosis.”

What is worrisome is that the dump present for years now, is simply growing in height. It also looks in danger of collapse and there is a danger of people getting seriously injured if any portion of that building suddenly breaks away and falls on people who are walking through the narrow lanes.

Tej Kiran resident Deepak Agrawal who has lived in the vicinity for 45 years says, “The mosquito menace has assumed alarming proportions. We never had a mosquito problem here, but it is growing now. We have also been spotting snakes in our area very often.

People might argue that snakes may be coming in from the Malabar Hill side which has trees and grass but look at this dump an entire colony of snakes can hide there and nobody would know.”

Agrawal claimed that they had complained to the BMC, “Once it was cleaned but that was on the periphery, the inside still had rubbish. More than just being cleaned, this structure needs a fence running around it so that people cannot go in or fling debris from the outside.”

Resident H Kapadia, who has been living in the area for nearly five decades and who stays just a building away from the crumbling building claims that, “the rat invasion is definitely because of this dump. I have a car rental agency here and my cars are constantly on the move.

But, residents’ cars who are parked for a while here, have wires eaten up by rats.” Like the others, Kapadia says the snake problem too is becoming acute. “Just a couple of days ago we had a snake in my building. I had to call a snake catcher from a residential colony not too far away. Now, he has warned the tenant that the mother of the snake will be on the prowl, so we have to be careful.”

When told that snakes could be coming in from the back portion of Malabar Hill just adjacent to the area, residents agree that it could be possible but add that snakes could be hiding in the rubbish dump too. “So high is the rubbish piled that we do not know what is inside.

Meanwhile, this empty structure which nobody seems to know about, there is a buzz that it belongs to a political party, has become a convenient dustbin for those who want to get rid of rubbish. People are at their wits end about how to tackle this.

“The monsoon is going to compound problems. Are we supposed to not breathe at all when we pass this dump? Hold our noses? Or, simply accept rats as part of the package of living here?” they ask in frustration and anger.

What the BMC says
Assistant Municipal Commissioner P R Masurkar in charge of the ‘D’ ward, which covers Babulnath area, says that he is unaware of the problem and will have to speak to the concerned department with reference to this.

What is Leptospirosis?
Leptospirosis is caused by infection with bacteria of the genus Leptospira and affects humans as well as other animals. Leptospirosis is among the world’s most common diseases that transmits from animals to people (zoonosis). The infection is commonly transmitted to humans by allowing water that has been contaminated by animal urine to come in contact with unhealed breaks in the skin, the eyes, or with the mucous membranes.

About Babulnath
Babulnath, one of Mumbai’s most affluent areas, leading up to tony Walkeshwar and Malabar Hill has one of the highest priced real estate in the city. The area is a mix of the old and new with the Babulnath Mandir being the landmark of the place.

Here small two and three-storeyed structures with their old world charm rub noses with skyscrapers. There are a majority of Gujarati residents, but there is a substantial Parsi presence here too. The Khareghat Parsi Colony is part of Babulnath.

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