A few months ago, members of Oshiwara Lokhandwala Citizens Association (OLCA) created a record by hosting a noise-free and colourful Diwali by floating hundreds of Chinese lanterns into the sky. The huge number of participants and tremendous response received by them, prompted them to ideate another creative project–to paint murals on the walls fencing off the mangroves on the Lokhandwala back road.
Hindrance than help?
However, to their utter disappointment, the project has been stuck with the authorities. There is a difference of opinion between the civic body and the forest department. “We, members of OLCA Riders (a cycling group), go for rides on that road, as it is relatively free from traffic. The colourful murals would have been pleasing to the eye and could have made our rides more enjoyable,” says Sumesh Lekhi, a member of the association.
Lekhi informs that red tapism is delaying the project. There is confusion about which authority will get the wall whitewashed before the painting starts. “Since the walls line the mangroves, BMC claims that it is the forest department’s duty to get it whitewashed. However, the forest department claims that the wall clearly belongs to the civic body and it is its responsibility to get it whitewashed,” says Lekhi. According to residents, this has been going on for the last six months and yet the authorities have not been able to come to any logical conclusion on the issue.
Residents say that the plan was to employ a particular group for the job, who would come turn by turn, in teams of 10, to paint murals on this 700-metre long wall. The riders strongly feel that beautifying the wall would encourage more people to join the group and take up cycling.
Filmmaker and a member of the association, Ashok Pandit, says that innumerable meetings at the ward level with the authorities have not yielded any result. “There is heavy political interference because of which things are not moving. Moreover, we have brought up this matter repeatedly with the authorities but there has been no initiative from their side. This leaves us frustrated and with no option but to complain to the municipal commissioner,” he says.
Currently, OLCA is on the lookout for a financier for the project. “Since there seems to be no development, I guess we will have to fend for ourselves. We are looking for someone to sponsor the project, so that the work is expedited,” he says. While K west ward officer, Vishwas Shankarwar, could not be contacted, another senior civic official, on condition of anonymity, refused to acknowledge that whitewashing the fence and readying it for the mural painting was their duty. “The land belongs to the forest department and they are the ones responsible for it. So, we are not supposed to do anything for that wall,” the official said.
Ashish Mehta, another resident who is also actively involved in the project, says, “Ideally it is the job of the forest department as the wall belongs to them. However, since there has been no development for such a long time, we have decided to approach someone who can sponsor the project for us,” he says. “That would probably be easier and faster,” he added.