On a mission to restore the centuries-old Pyaus (drinking water fountains), the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has finally invited bids for reviving four such British era Pyaus in the premises of Byculla Zoo. These four Pyaus are among the 30 other heritage grade Pyaus of Mumbai which the Mumbai civic body is working on to restore.
There are four heritage grade pyaus in the Byculla zoo premises, two of which are named Ardeshir Dadysett pyaus donated by Ardeshir Dadabhoy in 1912 located near the lion enclosure and the Jijiamata and Shivaji Statue, the third one Khunji Mulki Randeria Pyau in the nursery, and the Seth Samaladas Nassidas Pyau, also in the nursery too. The remaining two were donated between 1903 and 1933, respectively.
"While the three fountains will be restored as pyaus one among the Ardeshir Dadysett pyaus having lion head as water dispenser can not be restored as a Pyau but just as a fountain as many of its parts are missing," said Sanjay Sawant, Chief of BMC heritage cell. He added, " We have floated tenders for the project just last month."
Pyaus, a distinctive feature of Public spaces in Old Mumbai, (Bombay, at the time) had no specific architecture and yet were aesthetically pleasing. There are a total of 30 British-era pyaus across the city on the BMC's list and the civic body is planning to restore them all.
Rahul Chemburkar, an architect with Vaastu Vidhaan Projects and a heritage enthusiast is working with the BMC and had submitted the proposed conceptual conservation committee to restore the pyaus.
Vastu Vidhan Projects, which has restored heritage drinking water fountains in other parts of the city so far, has been appointed by the BMC to revive and conserve the “pyaus” inside the zoo. The firm has restored about four such fountains, including the 95-year-old Kothari Pyau near the GPO, which was restored in 2018.
Chemburkar is also the initiator of the Mumbai Pyau project, a social media platform to discuss and share stories of the water legacy of the city.
"Every pyau has a unique history and its own different style. In the olden days water was given in charity free of cost. People rather than buying a bottle of water preferred to drink water from the drinking water fountains. The difference in the style is based on the size as well as the locality where it has been built. The idea here is to make a systematic heritage circuit of these Pyaus. We are planning to place uniform plaques with information about the fountains next to them, along with murals depicting Mumbai’s rich socio-cultural past. Assign their respective QR codes. These can act as a 'Cultural Pause Space' for citizens where they apart from the water they also get the narrative history behind each one of them," Chemburkar said.
“The revival of the fountains inside the zoo premises includes excavation of the area around the pyau to make it accessible, revival of the water system of the ‘pyau’ and addition of filtration system to provide potable water to visitors, information plaques with QR codes and uniform design,” Sawant said.