Conserving most water bodies doesn’t cost much, and the benefits are too huge to ignore, said Pankaj Joshi, director, Urban Design and Research Institute.
Why are our water bodies in such a state of neglect?
Most of the manmade ponds and tanks in Mumbai were built during the 18th and 19th centuries as sources of water, both potable and non-potable. But their neglect started with the provision of piped water supply in the early 1900s. That’s when reclamation of these water bodies first began because people failed to realise that they have other functions as well. Each waterfront is also an effective public space that people can access to recreate. Just looking at water or even living adjacent to it has a calming effect on people. Therefore, historically, temples and settlements came up near waterfronts.
What went wrong?
While water bodies have been getting filled up for a long time, it got aggravated in the 1990s. Tanks have also not been properly included in the city’s Development Plan (DP). For instance, some tanks in the 1981 DP have been demarcated as recreation grounds. So developers have filled them in and converted them into playgrounds. There is a collective apathy.
What is the way forward?
Conservation measures must go hand-in-glove with development; something that has failed to take off. We are spending crores on building reservoirs. Instead, we should also create a network of tanks that can be used for flushing and cleaning purposes. Conserving these small water bodies costs little and is of substantial benefit in a city with a water shortage, especially during the summer.