Say they are stunts, have nothing to do with rejuvenation of water body
The Dahisar River Festival, which is being organised by Eknath Shinde loyalist Sheetal Mhatre
At least three events centred on the Dahisar river have been organised—two by the rival Shiv Sena factions and the third by an educational trust—while the actual water body, one of the city’s four rivers, continues to raise a stink as its rejuvenation is moving at a snail's pace.
Local residents and River March activists have alleged that the festivities are nothing more than publicity gimmicks.
Poster of the festival co-organised by Abhishek Ghosalkar
The River Festival has been organised by Prasad Pimpale and Rohit Bandekar of the Swargandha Pratishthan and the co-organiser of this event is Abhishek Ghosalkar, a former Shiv Sena corporator and Uddhav Thackeray loyalist. The festival began on Sunday, October 22, and will conclude on October 26. Organised near St Louis Church on Yashwantrao Tawde Marg, folk dances, ras garba nights, musical nights and food stalls are the highlights of the festival.
The second event, Dahisar River Festival, is being organised by Sheetal Mhatre, former Sena corporator and spokesperson of the Eknath Shinde faction. It also began on October 22 and will end on October 26. It boasts musical shows including a performance by well-known singer Avdhoot Gupte, who himself is a resident of Borivali’s Shree Krishna Nagar. The event is being held at Bapu Bagwe Marg near Dahisar River.
Poster of the event being celebrated by D G Patil Educational Institute
The third bash, Diwali River Festival, is being organised by D G Patil Educational Institute. The venue of the event, which began on October 24 and will end on October 26, is near Rustomjee School on Raghunath Keskar Road at Dahisar West.
Claiming that the festival he is co-organising is the original one while the other two are imitations, Ghosalkar said, “The River Festival has been held by the youngsters from Swargandha Pratishthan for the past five years. The group comprises 40 youths, the majority of them are residents of Mhatre Wadi in Dahisar, a locality alongside the river. They have been creating awareness among locals through the festival. Looking at the popularity the youth has garnered over the years, others have jumped in and copied them. Since the other two festivals' organisers announced grand events and invited popular artistes and these youths do not have any major financial backing, I approached them offering my support this year.”
Abhishek Ghosalkarl; Gopal Jhaveri; Sheetal Mhatre and Tejas Shah
He added, “The river work has not stopped. Locals would have to bear with the stench from the river almost every day earlier, but that has stopped now. Beautification work is pending, which will start soon.”
Sheetal Mhatre, organiser of the Dahisar River Festival, told mid-day, “This is our second year organising this festival. We flagged off the Dahisar rejuvenation project last year; however, for the past year, nothing has been done. This is one of the examples of why the government has changed. The work on river rejuvenation will gain pace under Chief Minister Eknath Shinde’s government. Through our festival, we have been creating awareness amongst the locals.”
The river, which flows over 12 kilometres and originates from the spillage water of Tulsi Lake in Sanjay Gandhi National Park, ends in Gorai Creek. But because of the civic body’s apathy and the unrestrained encroachment on its banks, the water body has been reduced to a sewer where waste from factories and building sites is dumped.
Although efforts are being made to revitalise and restore the Dahisar, Poisar and Mithi, there is obviously much more that needs to be done. As the city gears up for yet another election, Mumbaikars are calling out political parties and local leaders on their unfulfilled promises.
“Organising and celebrating festivals will not revive the river. Nowhere in these three festivals is there an event related to the river. They could have called experts and organised talks for the people. There are musical shows and food stalls instead. What are these political leaders doing on the ground? What work have they done to fast-track the rejuvenation of the river? Now suddenly they wake up during Diwali and want to celebrate the festival on the river. Where is the river, what is happening to the river, none of them know. This is just another Diwali event,” said Tejas Shah, a resident of Borivli and river rejuvenation activist.
Gopal Jhaveri, of River March, a citizen’s movement to rejuvenate Mumbai’s rivers, termed the festivals politically motivated events. “Are they really concerned about rivers? Where were all these people all year around? These people reside in these areas and hold important portfolios. If they wished, they could have played an important part in pushing for the rejuvenation of Dahisar and other city rivers. The Mumbai civic body’s plan to rejuvenate these rivers remains on paper. Do these people know anything about the river and what is the status of rejuvenation,” he asked.
The day in October when two of the fests began