Where's the green?
As World Environment Day approaches, our sutradhars contemplate their own future in the shadow of multi-crore urban projects that threaten the health of their beloved city
"Pheroze, why the long face?" Lady Flora asked her friend as soon as they met at their usual spot for midnight walks. He had not looked this glum since he was ignored for the Best Kept Statue award sometime back.
"I wonder what is up with my former bosses. I am increasingly getting the impression that they aren't really interested in the welfare of this city's environment. See, now June 5 is celebrated the world over as Environment Day but there is not much greenery in this city to show off," he bemoaned, clearly not ready to let go of his sulk. "Hmmm….I see your point, Pheroze. The days of yore, when the city was all about its swaying palms, robust tamarind and banyan trees, and lush mangroves, seem like a thing of the past, no? Recently, I was able to catch on to a bit of chatter between these two visitors near my pedestal. They were sighing about the threat that the Aarey Colony is under due to some mega construction work, and …" Even before she could complete her sentence, Sir PM interrupted her, "Lady, if I might add, this isn't just another project but our biggest headache of late — the Metro."
"What! I am not surprised, Pheroze," Lady Flora exclaimed, adding, "Why couldn't they leave that green lung alone? First it was the builders, and now it's the government itself. What days have come," she rued.
Silence prevailed for a while until they had reached the Queen's Necklace. They soaked in the beauty of the bejewelled landmark. It was one of those sultry nights before the monsoon had hit the city, and the calm of the night sky pulled them towards the seafront where Lady Flora again asked, "Now tell me, Pheroze, why exactly are you so upset?"
"Well you see, Lady…I've heard from very reliable sources that a coastal road lining this beautiful stretch all the way to central Bombay along the shore is going to be built.
The repercussions like increased pollution levels and spiraling costs are immense, I am told. And, fervent calls from several people to halt the project seems to have fallen on deaf ears. The newspapers are filled with articles on how this project and its claim to decongest the city will actually end up further damaging the environment. It is also not very poor- and middle-class-friendly, from what I hear. Motor car owners stand to benefit more than the common man who needs to use public transport for his daily commute. They should have thought of an elevated road instead. Pray what will be left of the city?" Pheroze shared.
Lady Flora was aghast. She was also silently miffed at herself for not being the one to break the news. But she put aside her disappointment and rattled off her displeasure at the project, "Look what they did to so many of our mangroves too. What will be left of our dear city, once a thriving cluster of seven islands filled with flora and fauna of all kinds? Please fill me in with details of this new menace whenever you hear something, Pheroze. I wish to be up to date with such developments. Who knows what new harebrained idea will get the nod, and we will barely be able to raise our heads above the ground. It's time to look for a viable retirement plan elsewhere, I think. I never imagined I would say this, but it seems all these new projects are being rolled out without taking into consideration what this city really needs and how these plans are choking its own people."
It had undoubtedly been one of their quieter walks. By now they had reached the northern end of the Necklace and found a spot to rest their tired feet. "Look, Pheroze, there's a shooting star, wish for something quickly," she cajoled her friend. After a few moments when she asked him what he had wished for, he replied, "For Mumbai to be Bombay again."
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
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