Residents of Bandra don’t recall at what point did a tourist hotspot in their neighbourhood turned into a garbage dump. Desperate to restore the beauty of Bandra Talao, they have finally joined hands to manually clean the pond, which is also a Grade 2 heritage structure. Officially called Swami Vivekananda Talao, the 200-year-old pond was formerly known as Lotus Tank.
Spread over 7.5 acres, it was all set for a multi-crore revamp undertaken by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) in 2019. The BMC had proposed a fountain and water aerators, with light and sound shows along with boating activities. The project kick-started with pathways at the talao, but irregular maintenance led to a sight for sore eyes becoming an eyesore, littered with plastic bottles, wrappers and solid waste.
Earlier this month, a local resident, Gauri Kulkarni, initiated a clean-up drive at the pond. “I have grown up watching this talao; over the years, its condition has deteriorated,” she said, adding that on one of the clean-up days, residents discovered that all the fish in the pond had died. “Earlier, there used to be turtles as well, but we can’t see them anymore,” Kulkarni said.
Mushtaq Ansari, an activist who was also part of the drive, said they have removed nearly 500 kg of solid waste from the talao. He said it has become a breeding ground for anti-social activities. “It’s because there is no boundary wall. This encourages unscrupulous activities,” said Ansari.
Senior Congress corporator Asif Zakaria said he has raised a point of order on this matter during the BMC ward committee meeting, and has also written to local BMC officials and the garden cell.
“The BMC’s idea was to beautify the talao to make it more usable; improvement works were also carried out in phases,” Zakaria told Free Press Journal. He said even though the works have been completed, official handover between the garden cell and local ward office hasn’t happened.
He added, “In the next 8-10 days, the issue will be resolved as we are getting a better agency to maintain the premises and keep it clean.” The garden cell, however, said its maintenance is the responsibility of the local ward office and the solid waste department. “We have beautified the talao, created pathways and have installed aerators,” an official said, adding that the aerators are in a good condition, but miscreants damaged the pipeline two months ago. “Even this has been repaired now,” the official added.