Just as open spaces have received their due in terms of funding and policies directed towards their upkeep, residents and activists are demanding similar protection for Mumbai’s vanishing water bodies.
Sherley Joseph Singh, secretary of the Juhu Scheme’s Residents’ Association (JSRA), is among those rallying for a policy that formalises a procedure to allow residents to adopt a water body and ensure its preservation. The group has made a presentation to the civic body, but is still awaiting a response.
“Instead of complaining about what is not being done, it is citizens’ responsibility to ensure water bodies are protected,” said Singh.
“A new policy will aid citizens in conserving water bodies, but you must be cautious as it can easily be misused. Besides, water bodies need to be mapped and categorised for such a policy,” said Nayana Kathpalia, co-convener of Citispace, a citizens’ forum that works to maintain open spaces.
Such a policy would enable citizens to follow a structure that works towards conserving fast-disappearing water bodies that could help prevent floods, raise the water table and act as an active source of non-potable water supply.
In the absence of a policy, citizens are unsure of what procedure to follow with respect to conservation of water bodies and are applying various methods to achieve their ends. Juhu residents are working with elected representatives, the civic body and corporations such as Bisleri to conserve water bodies in the area. JSRA, along with Member of Brotherhood, a non-profit group, raised Rs 1.2 lakh in 2009 to conduct a marine study of Juhu Lake and assess methods for its restoration.
The report was presented to the collector and elected representatives last October, proposing methods for the restoration. However, action is yet to be taken.
The absence of a formal policy has also resulted in ad-hocism. For instance, Bandra residents approached the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) in 2004 to restore Bandra Talao and even brought in private sponsors. However, in 2008, the BMC said it wanted to restore the talao itself. Nothing happened till 2010, which is when residents took charge.
Lokhandwala Complex Environmen-tal Action Group (LCEAG) successfully took a stand against builders dumping debris in Lokhandwala Lake. “We noted the numbers of the trucks dumping debris and sent their pictures to the BMC. We even protested outside its office,” said Rishi Agarwal, environmental activist and LCEAG member. To ensure Bandra Talao is safe from development under the guise of beautification, residents wrote to the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee in 2007, asking that the talao be part of the Natural Heritage List. That decision is pending.