Even though Bandra has undergone a sea change in the way it looks and its demography in the last couple of years, certain heritage structures, villages and gaothans still retain bits of the illustrious history of this old suburb. One such place which speaks volumes about Bandra’s history is the Lands End area, along with the 400-hundred-year old Castella De Aguada, popularly known as the Bandra fort.
Making a difference
Unlike several other important historic structures which have been ravaged by nature or ruined by mankind, the Bandra fort and its surrounding green area is one of the few well-maintained open spaces that Mumbai can boast of. Locals as well as visiors from other areas can enjoy its charm thanks to the tireless efforts of Bandra Bandstand Residents’ Trust (BBRT). Over the last three decades, BBRT members have not only been working to keep this space encroachment-free, but have also been maintaining it for the last few years now. “It is a continuous process and the constant efforts of our members have made it possible,” said Robin Nath, secretary and trustee of BBRT.
Residents claim that at one point of time the hill had nearly 5,000 trees, and was the only green cover between Kamala Nehru Park at Malabar Hill and Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Borivli. A few years ago, the Lands End hill was almost on the verge of disappearing with trees being drastically cut down in the area for the sake of ‘development’. However, residents of the area soon started taking an active interest when they realised that the situation was spiralling out of control.
Their first initiative was building the Bandstand promenade, with the help of government authorities, which is maintained actively by the BBRT members.
“Around 1997 the citizens, with the help of renowned architect PK Das and the authorities, decided to save and beautify the waterfront. Two years later, we managed to secure all the necessary sanctions and permissions and work on the promenade at Bandstand commenced,” said Arup Sarbhadhikary, chairperson, BBRT. In 2002, the authorities handed over the Lands End area to the citizens. BBRT members worked actively to restore the hill and developed an urban forest with palm trees, shrubs and lawns on the seafront, complete with pumps and watering systems, power, lighting, and even an amphitheatre. “The terraced hill side consists of nearly 600 trees and shrubs of at least 60 different varieties,” said Sarbhadhikary.
The trust is managed by a board of eight trustees, all old residents of this area drawn from various professional fields and business. “The main objective of the trust is to protect, preserve, and maintain open spaces, and to promote gardens and recreation areas as a social resource. We also thank the government for helping us in our efforts,” said Nath.
The success can be rightfully attributed to the citizens’ incessant fight against the various elements as well as the cooperative attitude of the different government bodies, who helped to resolve the various problems encountered. “These residents are doing a very good job. We will extend all sorts of help in whichever way possible to assist them,” said a civic official of the H west ward.
Other BBRT initiatives
1 Environmental protection for the promenade and the gardens
2 Better surface of the promenade and other public walkways
3 Improve lighting in the gardens and the promenade
4 Enhance security to the visiting public
5 Better protection to the public and the facilities against thefts and vandalism
6 Provide better sitting arrangements
7 Better playground equipment for the children’s garden areas
8 Better fencing around the gardens