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'Development' threatens Bandra

Manuela Saldanha, 48, who has lived in Bandra (west) all her life, said it was a place she used to be proud of. Not anymore. "Now, Bandra has become a nightmare to live in," she said.

mumbai Updated: Jan 17, 2012 01:34 IST
Kunal Purohit
Kunal Purohit
Hindustan Times

Manuela Saldanha, 48, who has lived in Bandra (west) all her life, said it was a place she used to be proud of. Not anymore. "Now, Bandra has become a nightmare to live in," she said.

Today, the H-west ward, which includes Bandra, Khar, Santacruz (west) and parts of Juhu, is one of the most coveted residential addresses in Mumbai.

As more and more people look to live in these areas, the Bandra of the old - narrow, sleepy by-lanes bordered with old villas and bungalows - is giving way to urban, monolithic structures, and the quaint by-lanes have become noisy, dusty traffic-packed spots.

Urban planning in H-west has not been able to keep up with the frenetic pace of 'development'.

Anil Joseph, chairman of Perry Road ALM sums it up: "The old-world feel of these areas is slowly getting lost. In the glitz and glamour that this area has to show to an outsider, the slums and the problems of the slums are lost."

The conflict between the new and the old, between the haves and the have-nots, is most apparent when the area revisits some of its old traditions and celebrations, such as the Mount Mary fair.

The fair, an annual feature, has been a tradition for almost 300 years now, but the last two years have seen unprecedented resistance from residents, who say they are fed up of the inconvenience they are forced to face during the week-long festivities as a result of poor civic planning.

Locals are getting just as intolerant towards other celebrations such as Ramzan, lodging multiple complaints against hawkers who gather to sell food to fasting devotees.

Had the civic machinery been more competent and proactive, this intolerance could have been checked, said civic activist Hasim Shaikh. "The civic body continues to be a mute spectator, even as these festivities keep burgeoning out of control. As a result, disgruntled locals have started voicing their objections," he said. "We are just asking for all festivities to either be regulated or relocated."

This disgruntlement is reflected in other things as well. Many residents, for instance, are in conflict with pubs and bars that have mushroomed in the area without adequate infrastructure to support them.

In ward no. 95 alone, there were 36 pubs, showed an RTI report in 2010. Most locals attribute the problems to the lack of a comprehensive vision for the area. "Had there been a long-term plan, the same problems would not keep cropping up," said activist PK Mukherjee.

Local representatives admit more needs to be done.

Congress corporator Asif Zakaria said: "There has been no significant value enhancement as far as this area's infrastructure is concerned. But we are trying to do as much as we can with the existing infrastructure."

Ashish Shelar, BJP corporator from Khar, said: "This area is vulnerable to rampant commercial development. It is unfair to say that there is no growth in infrastructure, but yes, the pace of growth needs to be more than what it is."

As these areas continue to 'develop' rapidly without adequate checks, many residents like Saldanha are finding it that their home is losing its charm. "If we don't buck up and stand up for the right way of governance, this ward will continue to be in a downward spiral," she said.

First Published: Jan 17, 2012 01:33 IST