With fewer open spaces remaining in the city, it had come as a blow to Colaba residents when they came to know that their beloved Back Garden, formerly known as Wellington Garden, was to make way for a parking lot and a swimming pool. The residents joined hands with My Dream Colaba, a Cuffe Parade-based NGO, to start a signature campaign to prevent the BMC from constructing the swimming pool and parking lot within the garden premises.
Cynthia D’mello of My Dream Colaba is helming the protest led by the residents and the nearby school. D’mello said, “This garden is a ‘green lung’ of this neighbourhood that is otherwise extremely densely populated. Apart from that, the children from the nearby schools also use the garden daily as well as on special occasions like their annual day or sports day.” D’mello added, “The garden has been an integral part of the residents’ lives for more than three generations.”
D’mello also shared that having a swimming pool in the middle of three societies is a huge safety issue, as anyone can enter the swimming pool. Providing access to the public swimming pool will also attract anti-social elements, jeopardising the security of the residents of the societies, especially the senior citizens, as well as the schoolchildren.
How it all started?
Residents allege that the BMC is under political pressure. The proposal was the brainchild of former corporator, Vinod Shekhar. Shekhar said, “There is a huge demand for a swimming pool in the area as the swimming pools of the nearby five star hotels are not accessible to the common man. The nearest public swimming pool is in Dadar.” He also added that the swimming pool would take up only 15 percent of the total area of the garden. D’mello pointed out, “When the proposal of the swimming pool was put forward in 2004, the residents had protested against it. He also claims that residents have approached him with the request for a municipal swimming pool in South Mumbai.”
The schools around the garden also do not want the swimming pool and carpark. Paul Machado, principal of Campion School, said, “I personally feel that a playground, which has a football field, two basketball courts and a play area for kids, should be given more importance than a swimming pool and carpark. The BMC says that they are going to construct the swimming pool on a small portion of the ground, but even that will be a big loss for the residents and the students of nearby schools.” Machado stated that the residents want the ground to remain the way it is, as it is one of the very few open spaces remaining in South Mumbai. He added, “Close to 10,000 students use the ground for their sports events and even the residents use the ground for their morning and evening walks.”
Citizen corporator from Colaba, Makrand Narvekar, who is also against the construction of the swimming pool and the parking lot, said, “The garden should remain as it is, as the garden benefits the public much more than the swimming pool ever will. It is not just a playing ground, it also serves as a venue for a lot of public and private functions. I really do not see why the civic authorities want to construct a swimming pool. The residents do not want a swimming pool; they want a world-class park. The residents have been regularly opposing the construction of the swimming pool.”
A Shot in the arm
The residents got a shot in the arm when Yuva Sena chief, Aditya Thackeray, lent his support to the cause, by asking Mumbai Mayor, Sunil Prabhu, to cancel any approvals given to the construction of the swimming pool within the garden. Thackeray, in a message on his facebook page, also informed that he had requested the mayor to install benches and lights in the garden so that children can safely play even after dark.
Both D'mello and Narvekar are happy to have received support of the young leader.