Amit Mane remembers playing on the banks of the Malad Creek everyday as a 15-year-old, after a long day at his school off the link road in Bangur Nagar, Goregaon (west).
Now, every time the marketing manager, 33, passes by the area, all he can see are buildings. “I can’t even see the creek from that spot anymore,” said Mane.
Mane’s nostalgia reflects the sentiments of most residents of P south ward, caught in the conflict between ‘development’ and preservation of natural resources, greenery and the concrete jungle and between swanky malls and disappearing creeks.
Stretching from the Aarey Milk Colony, one of the city’s largest green lungs, on its eastern boundary, to the Malad creek on it’s western front, the ward is nestled in greenery but growing urbanisation has come at a cost. While the Aarey colony tries to ward of encroachers – builders and shanty-dwellers alike, the western side has seen a gradual decline of the creek and wetlands, which have been replaced by concrete structures. The topography has changed rapidly, especially along the arterial Link Road, where marshes and wetlands have given way to malls and highrises.
The results? A suburb flanked by nature, yet lacking natural open spaces.
“Aarey milk colony is Goregaon's most precious feature, but there are host of issues endangering its existence, such as large-scale tree felling, building of malls and corporate houses inside the colony, and the mushrooming of unauthorised slums on government land,” said Sujata Tawde, a Goregaon resident who works with a publishing house.
While a number of citizens and local groups are actively trying to protect the colony, many feel that the vested interests of authorities make their task difficult. “We agree that development has to come to Goregaon in the form of malls, office complexes and residential high-rises. But at what cost? Do we really need three malls within a kilometre of each other?” asked Mane.
Residents are now haunted by the uncertainty of the future. “With huge slum pockets and old buildings in most of the ward, the area will inevitably come up for redevelopment and rehabilitation. The impact that this will have on existing infrastructure is what I dread,” said Ashish Patil, an IT professional and activist, working in Goregaon for seven years now.