Navi Mumbai with its wide clean roads and lush surroundings which earned it the third place in the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan list among 476 cities has another side to it.
Heaps of garbage and stinking overflowing drain, lack of proper public toilets in some pockets goes against the cleanliness image of the city.
The Union urban development ministry conducted a survey of cities taking into account a set of parameters to check their cleanliness and sanitation. Navi Mumbai is the only city from Maharashtra to figure in the top 10 list.
Even as the residents and civic officials are patting their backs over the clean-city tag, some are staring at the dirty picture.
Due to lack of public toilets, thousands of residents still defecate in the open — near railway stations, on the roads and pavements.
Heaps of garbage are seen lying in the open as they not picked up from several places, lending the area an ugly look. Drains are not cleaned properly, turning them into breeding grounds of mosquitoes. This is a common sight in pockets of Ghansoli, Kopar Khairane and Nerul, gaothan areas and the slums of Turbhe and Seawoods.
“NMMC vehicles come to our area every day but they do not pick up garbage from all the places. We have to inform the local ward office about the heaps of garbage. Complicating the problem further, stray animals scrounge around and scatter the garbage on roads,” said Karan Mhatre, 31, a resident of Ghansoli, sector 17.
Even residents of posh areas such as Vashi and Kopar Khairane are grappling with similar issues. “The lane opposite newly constructed Cidco Exhibition Centre that goes towards Kerala Bhavan, has turned into a dumping ground in the past six months, thanks to the civic authorities’ indifference. Beggars and labourers now defecate along the road making impossible to walk on it,” said Raju Sharma, 35, a Vashi resident.
The garbage dumped in front of Raghuleela mall, opposite Vashi railway station, is another blot of the city. “NMMC fails to collect garbage from a prominent place like this which is frequented by hundreds of people every day,” Sharma added.
The biggest problem in Navi Mumbai in terms of sanitation is water and air pollution. Chemical wastes from the industrial units of MIDC areas are directly released into the big nullah that flow into the creeks. The polluted water is also affecting the mangroves and the marine life of the creeks, residents claim.
“The water of the nullahs in the city keeps changing colour. Depending on the chemicals released, the water becomes red, blue, yellow and black. At times, the stink is so horrible that that we have to close our doors and windows even during the day time,” said Saurav Patil, 37, a resident of Kopar Khairane.
Not being able to bear the stink, residents sold their flats and shifted.
“The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) and Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) are responsible for releasing untreated chemical wastes into nullahs. Certain industries are doing it due to lack of supervision. We are aware of the matter and have requested both agencies to take action,” said SV Pattiwar, additional commissioner of NMMC.
The scenario is no different in Turbhe. “You cannot walk from Turbhe railway station to Pawane along the Thane-Belapur road as local residents and some labourers have been using the stretch to defecate for years. Situation is worse in the market areas. NMMC vehicles collect garbage from dustbins, but not from other places,” said Bhupal Singh, 28, a trader from Turbhe Store.
Residents from the gaothan areas said they always receive step-motherly treatment from the civic body. “The authorities are only concerned about the people along the Palm Beach Road or posh societies such as NRI Complex. No one seems to be concerned about the dirty roads, clogged and stinking drains in our areas. NMMC people do not come to repair the sewage lines in our area even after months of informing them,” said Devo Keot, 51, a resident of Vashi gaon.
Pattiwar, however, said they treat all citizens equally. “Gaothan areas lack civic amenities as the areas are not developed with proper planning. These areas are congested and hence putting sewage pipes has always been a problem. Residents also do not use dustbins and throw garbage on roads making it difficult to keep the area clean,” he said.
Pattiware said they have been distributing pamphlets, putting up banners, staging street plays and meeting to create awareness among residents of slum and gaothan areas. “Despite problems, you will find 100% house-to-house garbage collection in the city,” he added.