February 7, 2017 5:04:24 am
Mulund, once dubbed the ‘Prince of Suburbs’, now faces a series of challenges depending on which side of the geographical divide one is. The flipside of development is clearly visible on either side of the Central Railway tracks. While a half-century-old dumping ground continues to plague those living in Mulund East, western part of this suburb is undergoing development at a fast pace. Mulund East has a sizeable number of the working class, government servants, several pensioners and a large Marathi population. But much of the real estate activity is in the more prosperous Mulund West. “The Mulund dumping ground has left citizens gasping for breath, not just because of the horrid stench, but also because of frequent fires that envelop large swathes of the suburb in thick smoke. Smoke travels all the way up to the Mulund-Airoli bridge and till Gavanpada,” says Navghar resident Akhil Aghav (28), who was born and brought up in Mulund East.
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Started in 1968, the dumping ground spread over 25 hectares is the city’s second oldest landfill site.
Local MNS corporator Sujatha Pathak has demanded the dump be closed. “We speak of development, but how do we deal with this dumping ground? These are unsanitary conditions for the city. Just compare this ward to any in the west of Mulund,” she says.
Local NCP corporator Minakshi Patil echoes her views while pointing out roads riddled with potholes and overflowing nullahs: “This is not the case in the west (of Mulund).”
The anger of residents at the state of civic amenities was reflected in the last elections with a majority voting against the ruling Shiv Sena-BJP in the two electoral wards in Mulund East with the NCP winning one ward and the MNS the second one.
Mulund once boasted about being the only planned suburb, but the emergence of highrises on most of the 21 factory plots and industrial estates and the slowly expanding slum pockets in the east are threatening to further put a strain on its civic amenities. However, the ward still remains one of the greenest in Mumbai with the highest number of trees and gardens, according to a civic survey.
Contrary to the claims of corporators in Mulund East, local BJP corporator Manoj Kotak says his constituency and Mulund West don’t have issues of water or dumping ground stench, but the issues were specific to infrastructure.
“There is a tunnel between Mulund and Goregaon, then the Metro line will pass through the area. There would be traffic caused by this development, but that could be the only issue. There is no water scarcity here,” he says.
The T Ward is at the north-central limits of Mumbai with the lush Yeoor Hills of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park to its west and the Thane creek to its east. It is one of the biggest wards, spread over 46 sq km. The suburb, planned by the British in 1922 to accommodate 10,000 people, had a few slums initially, but now one-third of the 5.1 lakh local population reside in the slums.
In the 2012 elections, the Sena-BJP had promised to utilise the landfill site in public interest. The combine had promised to generate 20 MW electricity from the Mulund, Gorai and Kanjurmarg dumping grounds in five years and to utilise the power generated for municipal offices and hospitals. Last year, the BMC terminated the contracts for the Mulund dumping ground because of the failure of contractors to close the dumping ground, set up compost plants to process waste and use scientific means to deal with the landfill.
Poor drainage during the monsoon tops the list of complaints here. After industrial plots made way for housing societies and malls such as R Mall and Nirmal Lifestyle along LBS Marg, there are about 12 chronic spots where choked drainage leads to flooding. Besides, Gavanpada village and the railway tracks between Mulund and Bhandup get waterlogged during the monsoon. Mulund was also the only suburb to undergo power cuts during 2008 and 2009, but owing to pressure from over six active residents’ groups, there has been no load-shedding in the ward since.
After the Sena-BJP decided to go it alone in the polls, both parties have been sparring at each other. Most recently, BJP MP Kirit Somaiya was accused of a toilet scam in the area by Sena workers. With the snapping of the alliance, party workers too have switched their allegiance. Ex-corporator Prabhakar Shinde from Mulund West joined the BJP from the Sena, as did sitting Mulund corporator Samita Kamble.
Meanwhile, to prevent an erosion of its voter base, the Mulund division of MNS took around 350 voters last month to Nashik, where the MNS has been in power since 2012, to show the development work the party has done there.
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