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Mumbai: Hear, hear and some cheers

Updated on: 28 February,2024 07:20 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Hemal Ashar |

Activists, locals all smiles at interim Hanging Garden reservoir report; minor repairs should not entail cutting down trees, shutting down garden

Mumbai: Hear, hear and some cheers

(From Left) Zoru Bhathena, Vidula W, Dr N Baxi and Ravi Mandrekar at the conference. Pic/Shadab Khan

Key Highlights

  1. Wait continues for the report from the IIT members of the eight-person expert committee
  2. The subject has been simmering since September last year
  3. he reconstruction proposal has faced stoic resistance

The wait continues for the report from the IIT members of the eight-person expert committee, with reference to the stability of the Malabar Hill reservoir. The subject has been simmering since September last year after the BMC said it planned to demolish and reconstruct the over 140-year-old reservoir in the area. The reconstruction proposal has faced stoic resistance from a number of activists and citizens, especially since the proposal entailed axing 389 trees. Out of the 389, 200 are to be transplanted.

Citizens have organised themselves into a number of core groups and committees, in opposition to the BMC proposal. Activists, locals and environmentalists under the Malabar Hill Environmental Protection Group, held a press conference at the press club at Azad Maidan on Tuesday afternoon, even as the final report on the structural stability of the reservoir is awaited. The eight-person committee has four IIT experts, three citizen’s representatives and a convenor. The citizen’s representatives have filed an interim report largely in favour of minor repairs and no demolition of the reservoir. The IIT report is awaited.

Dr Nilesh Baxi, panellist at the conference said, “There are two hot topics currently, especially for south Mumbai, one is saving the racecourse and the other is Hanging Gardens.” Baxi gave some context talking about how he had started walking at Hanging Garden in 2023. “I was first shocked at the abysmal state of the Garden. I reached out to MLA Mangal Prabhat Lodha then and in a few weeks the garden was spruced up.” Baxi claimed his attention was drawn to notices on trees by a local in September last year, which meant the trees were going to be cut. The tree cutting was red-flagged and in fact, proved the starting point of a robust opposition to the proposed reconstruction of the Malabar Hill reservoir. Citizens swung into action, numerous meetings were called and Lodha “supported us fully,” said Dr Baxi echoing a common sentiment.

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The doc claimed the removal of trees, necessary for reconstruction of the reservoir will mean Malabar Hill will be completely devoid of green cover. “The final report is awaited. We do not know when that will be out, yet, we are confident it will be in favour of minor repairs and preserving the Hanging Garden precinct, swinging towards the stakeholders, the people,” he said.

Ravi Mandrekar, the panellist, highlighted at the press conference that, “The tank may be bad in parts but it can be repaired from the inside and our belief is that repairs should not take more than Rs 1 crore,” he said to cheers. The work order awarded earlier last year was pegged at approximately Rs 698 crore. Mandrekar reminded that, “The interim report states that the reservoir is in good condition. If there are certain repairs to be done, they should be done, there should be no neglect, but demolition is not needed.” The activists said, “If the reservoir is re-constructed the Hanging Garden will be closed for seven years. While seven years has been stated, we know that means at least 10 years. Effectively, the garden will be gone and builders will have a field day.” The panellists cited that the citizen representatives Dr V Nori, Alpa Sheth and Rahul Kadri are, “experts who work on the ground.”

The conference concluded with panellists, Dr Baxi, Mandrekar, Vidula W and green activist Zoru Bhathena, plus several Malabar Hill locals at the conference optimistic about the Hanging Garden green precinct remaining intact and a rousing cheer for “people power and strength in unity.” The Additional Commissioner P Velarasu said he was “unaware” about when the IIT report will be out.

140 yrs
Age of the reservoir

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