Mumbai: Tourism and Environment Minister Aaditya Thackeray has strongly opposed the BMC's proposal to set up quarantine facilities for Covid-19 patients on stadium grounds, on the plea that the fields have mud bases and will be unfit for use during monsoon. This news will come as a relief to residents in the vicinity of Wankhede stadium.
Since Wankhede is adjacent to both, Marine Lines and Churchgate railway stations and flanked by residential buildings on all four sides, the inhabitants of the buildings were worried when they heard about the proposal.
The Marine Drive Citizens' Association (MDCA) had written to the chief secretary, Government of Maharashtra, urging it to reconsider its decision.
The BMC, struggling to meet the demand for more beds, given the rising number of Covid-19 patients in the city, had on Friday, asked the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) to hand over a portion of the stadium which it could use to create institutional quarantine facilities.
The move was welcomed by Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut, who tweeted, All resources need to be utilised in Mumbai to fight against #Covid_19India.
Good call on taking up Wankhede stadium to develop a quarantine facility. Suggestion to @OfficeofUTwhy not take over Brabourne stadium as well? It has much needed facilities @PawarSpeaks @AUThackeray." However, Raut's suggestion was turned down by Aaditya Thackeray.
Aaditya tweeted in reply: "Sanjay ji, we can’t take the grounds of the stadiums or playgrounds because they have a mud base and they won’t be usable during monsoon. An open space with a solid/ concrete base is usable and it is being done already.’’ "Had it not been for our monsoon, it is very usable," he added.
Incidentally, Municipal Commissioner Iqbal Chahal, backtracked from the proposal later in the day, saying the civic body would not take over any stadium or any open space because of the heavy rains lashing the city in the monsoon. Instead, said Chahal, the civic body was looking at converting the many multi-storeyed parking lots across the city into Covid treatment facilities.
BMC sources hinted that about 50,000 beds could be put up in the parking lots of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport. Additionally, the civic body has also identified smaller parking lots in various municipal wards to set up facilities with ICU beds and dialysis facilities.
The MDCA letter had said the area adjacent to the stadium was a heritage zone and housed a number of senior citizens, a group particularly vulnerable to Covid-19. Further, in the monsoon, the grounds are prone to become breeding grounds for mosquitoes because of standing water, the letter stated.
"The area where Wankhede is situated is very congested and is a completely residential area. There are senior citizens and children living in the vicinity of the stadium who are at risk of getting infected," said Ashok Gupta, vice president, MDCA.
"There are many warehouses and stores lying idle on the eastern side of the city, some of them are visible from the Eastern Freeway. If the BMC works on transforming these into quarantine facilities, it will be faster, convenient and more cost-effective as well," suggested Gupta.