Lake walk around Thane aims to raise awareness about water bodies
Take a tour of water bodies in Thane to understand how reclaiming their natural beauty is far from a cakewalk
A couple of months ago, a closed group of people were invited on a lake walk around Thane. We were one of the participants. The exercise was aimed at raising awareness about making these water bodies more accessible to the public, and highlighting how a number of factors have created a situation where people need to take the onus on reclaiming their natural wonder. Now, that same walk is open for anyone to join in. And those who attend it will leave with an understanding of how urbanisation is one of the reasons behind the changing landscape of "the city of lakes".
A Thane lake that has been encroached
Take Desai Lake for instance, where we stopped for refreshments. It is located beside Ghodbunder Road, which connects the satellite city to Mumbai. Decades ago, before motorised vehicles clogged up the roads, people would travel to and fro on bullock carts, taking a much-needed break beside the lake to recharge their batteries. But we found the surrounding area to be a busy junction today, choc-a-bloc with shops and cars destroying the erstwhile tranquillity. The water body is under the aegis of the Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) at present. And the authorities have made some effort to retain the sense of restfulness that it provided. But constructing seating areas on a concrete embankment has its own set of problems. For, a lake — left to itself — builds its own ecosystem, where birds for example come to feast on the insects they find in the mud next to the water. And bricks and mortar put that natural evolution under threat.
Participants at a walk organised by Talav
Yet, such is the rate at which builders are taking over the growing needs of habitation in Thane that the TMC is compelled to take them on board when protecting the city's lakes. The worry, however, is that most of these builders come from outside Thane and lack a connect with the water bodies, says Mayuresh Bhadsavle, who will conduct the walk this weekend.
Bhadsavle is a part of Talav, or Transforming and Appropriating Lakes through Activism and Volunteerism. As the name suggests, it's an organisation that seeks public participation and works hand in hand with the TMC to ensure that the area's lakes remain the sort of place that bullock cart drivers once found solace in. He tells us over the phone, "The three major concerns that we, at Talav, have are that one, the beautification taking place is not participatory. Secondly, the people who are a part of the beautification are not the real stakeholders since they are not from Thane. And finally, even after a lake is revived, it isn't made accessible to everyone. For example, were any of the lakes you visited disabled-friendly?"
Mayuresh Bhadsavle conducts a walk in Thane
They were not, and nor were the five lakes we stopped at during the three-hour walk open to the public all day. But there's another major concern, Bhadsavle adds. Most of the lakes that are being picked for revival are near upcoming housing projects, since builders want to use them as a USP to advertise their plots. This is true for Mumbra and Ghodbunder too, two other places where Talav plans to organise similar walks in the future. "The builders take permission from the TMC to beautify these lakes. But then they construct gardens around them and keep them accessible only to residents from their complexes. So, the water body isn't open to the public any longer. And on top of that, another apprehension we have is that there are many smaller lakes that are not being revived as a process. Hence, they are becoming even smaller," Bhadsavle laments.
The moot point, then, is that the civic corporation, private builders and the people of Thane need to join hands if they are to protect one of the city's biggest highlights — its water bodies. We had visited Utsa Lake once our walk was over. It had seemed to us that all the people over there were picnicking while on holiday, when most of them were actually from the city itself, such was the magical energy of the place. Yet, unless a systematic process is put into place, a day might come when Utsa, too, becomes as dry as cracked farmland during a season of drought.
ON: March 4, 8 am
MEETING POINT: Shaheed Udyan, Panchpakadi, Thane.
COST: Rs 650
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