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HT Column: Mumbai’s DP does not even have the right place names

As this newspaper has been reporting, the proposed plan, if it is not modified, could destroy Mumbai’s green spaces and parks, obliterate its architectural and historical landmarks and leave the city more crowded.

mumbai Updated: Apr 02, 2015 22:26 IST
Manoj Nair
Manoj Nair
Hindustan Times
Mumbai DP

The new development Plan (DP), the document that will guide the city’s growth for the next 20 years, is riddled with errors and omissions.

As this newspaper has been reporting, the proposed plan, if it is not modified, could destroy Mumbai’s green spaces and parks, obliterate its architectural and historical landmarks and leave the city more crowded.

A group of citizens who live in Mumbai’s gaothans — villages that were absorbed into the city — have found that the plan also distorts the historical names of their localities.

For instance, Bamanwada, a village near the airport, has been listed in the DP as Brahmanwada. “There seems to be no confusion about the original name as the residents of the area identity the locality as Bamanwada; but the DP calls the area Brahmanwada,” said Godfrey Pimenta, a lawyer and member of citizens group Watchdog Foundation.

The group compared place names in the DP with information in the annual Ready Reckoner, the guide that gives property values in the city, and revenue maps which lists properties and land plots. They found that Amboli, a locality in Andheri (West), is marked as Ambavali in the Ready Reckoner and Ambivli in the DP.

Aksa, a village with a popular beach, is Akse in the Reckoner and Aakse in the DP; Marouli, a village in Chembur, is marked as Marvali in the Reckoner and Maravali in the plan. Asalpa, near Kurla, is Asalpe in the DP. Users of the Ready Reckoner, which is used to calculate taxes on new property purchases, had also found it to be error-ridden, full of place names that are no longer identifiable postal addresses.

“The municipal corporation and the state government have committed serious faux pas in naming the villages without proper verification and check. The city planners who have prepared this proposed DP for 2014-2034 need to be sacked for their incompetence and blunders,” said Pimenta, who wants an enquiry into how an error-filled document was released to the public.

Brian Pereira, a resident of Marol who is a member of a social media group that exchanges information and photographs on Mumbai’s villages, said: “These people are changing place names. A place known as Parjapur, near Andheri, is listed in the plan as Prajapur, which has a very different meaning,” said Pereira.

“The planners do not know what they are doing; the plan should be created by people who know the city.”

Residents feel that by treating place names so casually urban planners are disregarding their historical value.

“Generations of residents have passed on the names, and when you are changing place names, you are erasing history,” said Pimenta. “These documents [the plans] are used while buying land or houses. Imagine the confusion these errors will create when property transactions are made.”

Residents are wondering whether these errors were slipped in deliberately in to the plan. For instance, some of the villages are listed by the municipal corporation as heritage precincts that need to be preserved.

The DP has marked some of these villages, like Marol with its two Portuguese-era churches and architecture, as slums. This new classification can only benefit construction companies that take up slum redevelopment projects.

Some old place names in Mumbai are already lost, said Malad resident Gerard Misquitta, who has studied the history of Mumbai’s erstwhile villages.

“For instance, there is a village (near Santacruz Electronics Exports Processing Zone – SEEPZ) that is called Kondivita. The name rarely features in conversations now, though the neighbouring village that is named Gundavli is recognised as the name of a locality,” said Misquitta.

Closer to Misquitta’s home were villages called Lower and Upper Kharodi. Residents of the area who use the municipal bus service now identify the place as ‘Stop number one’. “If you ask the bus conductor for a ticket to Kharodi, he would probably be surprised. This is how place names vanish,” Misquitta added.

First Published: Apr 02, 2015 22:25 IST