BMC to prepare master plan to create tourism facilities around Mithi river

Hindustan Times, Mumbai | ByMehul R Thakkar
Aug 25, 2020 01:18 PM IST

Officials said creating tourism facilities around the river is part of the plan to rejuvenate it

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) authorities have chalked out elaborate plans for the over 15-kilometre (km)-long Mithi river, which is often denigrated as Mumbai’s garbage-strewn nullah that starts from Powai and empties into the Arabian sea near Mahim.

Mithi river cleaning drive in Mumbaion April 29, 2020.(Vijayanand Gupta/HT Photo)
Mithi river cleaning drive in Mumbaion April 29, 2020.(Vijayanand Gupta/HT Photo)

The civic body is working on a master plan to create tourism facilities around the river, including recreational boating facilities on the river or at artificial holding ponds built near it. The plan includes constructing recreational facilities such as mangrove parks and gardens and encouraging aquatic life in the water body.

The river that snakes through Kurla, Saki Nakka, and Vakola is often less of a river and more of a sewer because of garbage, sewage, plastic and pollutants. It is among the most polluted water bodies in Mumbai.

The BMC has failed to clean the river for more than a decade. The 2005 deluge had brought Mithi’s deplorable plight to limelight.

The civic body officials told HT that creating tourism facilities around the river is part of the plan to rejuvenate it. The master plan will be prepared by a consultant while factoring in all ground realities.

P Velrasu, additional municipal commissioner, BMC, said, “We are going to appoint a consultant for creating holding ponds and to develop a tourism ecosystem around the river. This is a part of the plan for the river’s rejuvenation. We are drafting a comprehensive master plan for this exercise.’’

A BMC official conceded that the waste discharged illegally in to the river would be a challenge, but plans are afoot to divert sewage into municipal pumping stations and block the ingress from where the pollutants enter the river in line with the suggestions of a Swedish consultant.

The artificial holding pond plan was mooted by the BMC last year on the lines of Japan. The holding pond will be used to store the excess rainwater from the Vehar, Tulsi, and Powai lakes, instead of discharging into the river that overflows during monsoon.

The BMC is working on several aspects for the river’s rejuvenation, including encouraging aquatic life, increasing green belt along its banks around Powai and Jogeshwari Vikhroli Link Road. The bid document prepared by BMC cites assessment on the possibilities of the urban development for commercial and public activities along the river banks and boating facilities in a bid to boost tourism.

The plans are in consonance with BMC’s budget for 2020-21 that had proposed for a separate allocation for tourism. The civic body had set aside Rs 183 crore to boost tourism in Mumbai.

Environmental and civic activists are sceptical of the BMC’s ambitious plan.

Nikhil Desai, a civic activist from Mumbai, said, “Mithi river is filthy. A reveller, who wants to go there for a boating excursion, will fall unconscious, unless there is a major transformation. The civic body’s priority must be to stop the sewer and industrial waste entering the river and polluting it. Navigation in the river is only possible, if wanton pollution of the river can be stopped at the earliest. Though crores have been spent on the exercise, the results have not been encouraging to date.”

Zeeshan Usman, a ferry owner from the Gateway of India in Colaba, said, “On paper, it appears to be an ideal plan. In several countries, rivers and seas have been interlinked for transport and tourism purposes. However, nothing can be done unless encroachments are removed and a concerted bid is mounted to prevent the indiscriminate dumping of waste into the river.”

Both the Maharashtra government and the BMC authorities have come under fire several times over their shoddy handling of industrial waste being consistently dumped into the river, especially after the 2005 deluge, when the river overflowed and Mumbai was marooned for days on end.

In August 2017, the Supreme Court (SC) had reprimanded the state government for turning the river into a “garbage-strewn drain”.

The apex court had said that no effective steps appear to have been taken by the state government to restore the river even more than a decade after the floods had brought Mumbai down to its knees. The SC had asked the government to deposit Rs 50 lakh with it for setting up an expert committee to salvage the polluted river.


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