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Quench your thirst: Mumbai civic body to reopen four fountains by year-end

The drinking water fountains were built by local wealthy families to provide drinking water to commuters and labourers along the road.

mumbai Updated: Feb 17, 2018 23:16 IST
Geetanjali Gulrhosur
Geetanjali Gulrhosur
Hindustan Times
mumbai news,water fountain,restoration work
Madhavdas Lakshmidas Kothari Pyaav outside Metro Cinema in Fort.(Bhushan Koyande/HT))

Citizens will soon be able to drink clean water for free from city’s monumental drinking water fountains (pyaavs), which were built in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The civic body’s heritage conservation cell, which has been working on restoring the drinking water fountains will be reopening four of the 25 British-era water dispensers to the public, by the end of this year.

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) will soon flow tenders for restoration of Madhavdas Lakshmidas Kothari water drinking fountain outside Metro Cinema in Fort, Vitthal Koli at Dadar and Kalachowki at Byculla. These will then be opened for public use.

Kothari fountain outside Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) is currently being restored and will be reopened with a functioning drinking water dispenser in a month.

The Kashavji Naik fountain at Masjid Bunder was the first one to be restored in 2013 and it still provides drinking water to passersby.

Rich in architectural element and categorised as Grade-II or Grade-III heritage structures, the drinking water fountains were built by local wealthy families to provide drinking water to commuters and labourers along the tram road. Usually built in memory of the deceased, they served drinking water to both humans and animals.

These structures have been damaged in a way that one cannot recognise them and have disappeared behind encroachments and trees due to negligence. The BMC will be restoring the water fountains on public-private partnership (PPP) basis.

According to BMC’s senior heritage conservation engineer Sanjay Sawant, his team, along with private consultants has been identifying and documenting the existing water fountains since a year.

“We have found 25 big and small water fountains, mainly in South Mumbai. Reviving them will be a meticulous task. Each water fountain has a unique structure. We cannot use the same materials and methods to restore all of them. In addition to merely restoring the structures, we are adding value to them with murals, oil lamps, sculptures, water purifying filters and underground water pumps.”

A consulting conservation architect with a passion for the centuries-old drinking water fountains, Rahul Chemburkar helped the BMC restore the fountain at Masjid Bunder.

The architect, who started the Mumbai Pyaav Project to raise awareness, said, “These watering troughs were a confluence of the European water dispensing system and the Indian tendency for water charity. All of the water drinking fountains are located in the south of Bandra. Every water drinking fountain is a socio-cultural landmark and has a story behind it. The BMC should be appreciated for their efforts to excavate the fountains and finally restore them.”

Another consultant, Pankaj Joshi, who is also the executive director at Urban Design Research Institute, said, “The water drinking fountains, built as donations to the public, can be found in most historic cities of India. Apart from providing drinking water, they created recreation spots. Although there are only 20-odd left in the city, the priority still remains to provide people with safe drinking water today.”

The BMC, which is spending several lakhs on each water drinking fountain, will be restoring 12 more in 2019.

The restored fountains will be handed over to bidding contractors for maintenance on three-year term basis.

First Published: Feb 17, 2018 23:16 IST