A drive through the bustling city of Mumbai is incomplete without a glimpse of the spectacular Marine Drive. With mesmerizing views of the ‘Queen’s Necklace’ this neighbourhood is home to the affluent families of the city. The construction of Marine Drive started in the year 1915 and was completed in 1920. Initially, it was referred to as Kennedy Road and is currently known as Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Marg. However, locals have always referred to it as Marine Drive.
Across the promenade where walkers are spotted regularly are beautiful heritage Art Deco-style buildings. The residents of these buildings came together in 1964 to form the Marine Drive Citizens' Association. The Association is headed by its Founder and President, R N Somani, and the present social affairs are being handled by Vice Presidents — Ashok Gupta and Vinay Somani. The area of operation begins at the Marine Drive Flyover and extends up to NCPA, comprising primarily of the sea-facing buildings and their residents. The purpose of the Association was to bring residents of the area together to create a sense of community and also provide a single platform to address the various challenges that plague the neighbourhood.
In 2020, the Association had planned to hold a festival to celebrate 100 years of Marine Drive. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic the celebrations were put on hold.
The Association tackles various civic issues such as the maintenance of the footpaths, garbage segregation, dealing with squatters and also providing a solution for the shortage of parking faced by the residents. The Association aims to instil a feeling of community and during the ongoing pandemic their WhatsApp group was a platform for the residents to provide aid to each other — from sourcing groceries for the elderly to procuring medicines, vaccines and more. The Association also communicates the challenges faced by the locals with the Corporator [Sujata Sanap] and MLA [Rahul Narwekar].
The Marine Drive Citizens' Association believes in finding solutions to the challenges faced by the residents and the issue in the implementation of those solutions. A major challenge faced by them is lack of parking space. The Association had suggested that a solution for this would be to have one footpath instead of two in some of the narrower bylanes, therefore providing more space for parking.
The land on Marine Drive, Cuffe Parade, Nariman Point is granted as Collector’s Lease. The Association has been trying to get the authorities to reduce the premium to 3-5% to make it Occupancy Class 1 from Class 2.
Since the Association aims to foster a sense of community they had spearheaded the idea of a postcard and stamp commemorating 100 years of Marine Drive. However, due to lack of proof as to the exact year in which Marine Drive was completed the stamp authorities could not go ahead and publish the same.
Like with any neighbourhood, Marine Drive also has its set of challenges. However, with able bodies like the Marine Drive Citizens' Association these challenges are being tackled bit by bit. So the next time you pass through this UNESCO declared heritage neighbourhood do keep in mind that there are a lot of hands working behind maintaining its beauty and sanctity.
Work carried out by the Association:
• The Marine Drive Citizens' Association through its constituents runs various social activities from the premises below the Marine Drive Flyover allotted to them by the Municipal Corporation.
• The Association supervises major works carried out by the Corporation to make sure it is done to specs. They suggest changes to the design aspect to make the works residents-friendly—example, creating a ramp at the end of each footpath stretch.
• Regular follow-up with the Ward office for periodic fumigation of the area is carried out by the Association.
• The Association represents the building societies and land leases in converting the land lease to Occupancy Class 1 by trying to get the premium reduced to realistic levels.
• The Association is providing inputs to create infrastructure changes to make the road more suitable for traffic movement — for instance, creating a sanctioned road from Gen. Bhonsle Marg to Marine Drive via NCPA.
• Their efforts are continuous on garbage segregation and disposal. The Association carries out constant dialogue with BMC, MMRDA and Wankhede Stadium to relocate their smelly garbage composting machines away from the residential buildings.
Their efforts are ongoing... they succeed in some and keep on the follow-up for some difficulties.