In the 1960s, the Carter Road sea front was a beautiful seaside recreation space, with sandy beaches and inviting waters where the residents swam and frolicked as children. In the afternoon, the dhobis used the clean white sands to dry their laundry.
Then came the construction boom that brought with it indiscriminate, uncontrolled dumping. In 1990, the residents of Bandra West came together to form the Bandra West Residents’ Association to try and stop this brazen destruction of the recreation space, but with little result. To add to the woes of the residents, in 1997 the Zheng Dong, a vessel carrying nearly 250 metric tons of oil, got grounded and washed ashore off Carter Road. Vested interests saw a commercial opportunity and were keen to build a hotel from the ship.
Without wasting time, they began to build a walkway from the shore through the mangroves, to the ship. Now the residents needed help quickly. They got together and with the help of the press publicised their concerns. Bandra residents together with other concerned groups, took the case to court. The court ruled in favour of the petitioners. The next hurdle was to ensure that the oil and sludge from the ship should be removed from the ship and carried away before the vessel was dismantled, instead of being allowed to flow out into the ocean. This was successfully achieved.
Now that the Bandra residents had come together, it was time to take up the issue of saving our waterfront. P K Das, eminent architect, had formed the Waterfronts Beautification Association and was happy to begin with Carter Road and Bandra Band Stand. Shabana Azmi, our MP at the time, got involved and from her MP (LAD) funds she provided the much-needed finance for building the promenade. The Bandra West Residents’ Association (BWRA) was registered with the charity commissioner in 2000. The BWRA had committed residents on board like Darryl D’Monte, Roshan Dhaboiwalla, Suren Kaushik, and George Menezes, to name a few. The work was finally completed, and BWRA’s key objective of saving a valuable public space, became a reality when it opened, with a grand carnival in January 2002.
In 2002, vide an agreement, the BMC handed over the 1.5 km space to BWRA. In 2007, the Mumbai Maritime Board, for the first time, also claimed ownership of the promenade and we had to enter into an agreement with them as well.
The challenges in a residents’ association taking complete charge of an open-air public space are plenty, but it is the dedication and connection with the place committee members were born and grew up in, that had made commitment levels so high that no matter how impossible the challenges, they were overcome.
Our trustees, committee members, residents and sponsors have worked selflessly and tirelessly over the years to ensure that the people of Bandra have a dedicated recreation space that they can be proud of. A place where children could play safely in an enclosed playground; a dedicated dog park where pets could frolic in their own grassy patch; an amphitheater where both budding artistes and professionals found a stage to perform; wide open spaces for sports and fitness enthusiasts to sharpen their skills; unobstructed walking areas where people across all age groups could have their fitness walks; leisure sitting spaces to enjoy the beautiful sunsets; a democratic space that was a social equalizer; a space where innumerable friendships had been forged.
In the 20-odd years that the BWRA had responsibility of the Carter Road promenade, it was turned into an iconic space for Bandra residents. Over the years BWRA has been awarded two international and two local awards for ‘Saving a Public Space.’
BWRA was actively involved in ‘Save the Mangroves’ project as a result of which the mangroves at the Carter Road Sea front were revived and are now flourishing.
The Road Ahead: We, at the Bandra West Residents’ Association will continue to work, together with the police, traffic police, BMC and other authorities for the betterment and good of our residents and our suburb.
President: Patricia Nath
Treasurer: Arjun Chhabria
Secretary: Naaznin Husein
Trustee: Vivek Sundara