It has undisputedly the most number of open spaces and green areas in the island city, but the tragedy is that most of these plots in the F-north ward are in a bad shape as they lie neglected.
In all, the ward has 46 open spaces – 31 plots reserved as recreational gardens, 11 plots as playgrounds and four as gardens. In the past five years, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has spent lakhs of the taxpayers’ money developing many of these open spaces, but owing to the lack of regular maintenance and supervision, the gardens are in a poor state.
Consider this. Two years after the BMC started the restoration of Five Gardens, a heritage property, it has spent Rs one crore, but only two of the five gardens have had a makeover.
Data obtained under the Right to Information (RTI) Act by residents shows that the BMC allocated Rs 50,000 for each lamppost, while the cost of a bench has been pegged at Rs 30,000. In the absence of a security guard, some of the lamps have been vandalised and robbed. “The kind of blind expenditure by the BMC is ridiculous,” said Nikhil Desai, a resident of Matunga. “The heritage committee had to intervene in order to stop the BMC from reducing the green space through concretisation.”
Even as the BMC spends an absurd amount of money and time on the Five Gardens, the huge Hoopers’ garden, near JB Vachha school close to Five Gardens, once the haven for basketball enthusiasts, lies unmaintained.
The BN Vaidya Udyan in Hindu Colony was developed just three years ago, but the trees have all dried up, the ground is unlevelled and the boundary wall is broken. “The BMC has lots of money to spend, but it cannot maintain the garden by appointing a gardener and a security guard. In three years, this garden has deteriorated to a point that it can’t be used,” said Sudarshan Bhatt, a Hindu Colony resident.
Residents said the BMC should learn from L&T, which maintains the Maheshwari Udyan. The garden, a slice of which was taken away to lay pillars for the Dadar-Matunga flyover, has won the award for being the best-maintained garden in the city for nine consecutive years now. “A lush green lawn, well-maintained trees, walking tracks, a few safe rides for children and a working fountain are the basic things needed in garden. Why can’t the BMC do it? ” said Desai.
The state of the garden in the Sion fort precinct is as bad as all the others. The garden was handed over to the BMC in the mid-1990s for maintenance, but the BMC’s apathy and neglect prompted the Archaeological Survey of India to take it back three years ago. No effort has been made to maintain the garden after that.
The civic body installed a new fountain at Nappu garden, near Matunga station, recently, but within a year the fountain stopped working. The ward office claims it does not have the manpower to maintain fountains.
Raghunath Thavai, a Congress corporator, said: “The residents’ complaints are valid. Even after repeatedly telling the ward staff to post security guards in the gardens, they have not done anything.