Citizens fight civic apathy to save open spaces
In a ward that is home to the iconic Shivaji Park - one of the city's most centrally located and famous grounds - and the Dadar sea-face, the biggest struggle for residents is the fight for preservation of open spaces.
These precious plots have been neglected by the civic body for years, and the ones that remain are thanks to the efforts of citizens, who have been at the forefront of saving and maintaining open spaces here.
For instance, the Desai Maidan at Mahim had become the haunt of drug addicts, gamblers and anti-social elements. It was only after months of protests, sloganeering and petitions that they were finally cleared out. "It was a struggle, but we achieved it with the citizen power," said Bulu Saldanha, coordinator, Action for good Governance and Networking in India (AGNI).
At Mogul Lane at Mahim, residents had to wage a year-long battle to free a 2,900 sq ft recreation ground being used illegally for parking.
"Saving open spaces is our priority," said Nagesh Kini, convenor, G-north Open Spaces Committee, The committee has made a list of 33 open spaces on the ward and have formed special squads to protect it. "A majority of our time is spent in just protesting to ensure this precious land is saved," said noted environmentalist Girish Raut.
Residents also complain that the open spaces at Shivaji Park in Dadar, which has a renowned cricket academy along with other sporting facilities have depleted over the years. "Politicians come up with novel ideas and tamper with it. Why don't they let the ground be as it is?" asked Raut.
Acknowledging residents' role in protecting open spaces in the ward, Congress corporator Meena Desai said: "Citizens are very active and I also gave priority to upkeep of gardens and playgrounds in my ward."
The ward also has one of the major railway stations in the city, Dadar, which attracts hordes of passengers everyday. However, outside the station, the situation is a mess - with hawkers and encroachments crowding footpaths and garbage on the roads.
Residents of the ward also grapple with potholed roads, erratic garbage collection and filthy bylanes.
"The roads are so bad that driving around is a pain. Footpaths, too, are in a terrible condition," said Dharavi resident AP Srinivasan Nadar.