On a Saturday evening (30th March 2019), a silent protest was organised at Nariman Point – Marine Drive peninsula bay in Mumbai. Several NGO’s, environment groups, non-profit foundations, citizen groups and individuals came together to form a HUMAN CHAIN. This gathering of more than 1000 people was an expression of disapproval in the way environment is getting compromised in the name of development.
Mumbai is undergoing rapid infrastructure shift with Metro Rail, Commercial and Residential Projects by Real Estate developers, Coastal Road project, Metro Car shed in Aarey, Navi Mumbai International Airport and the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link. To add to this list is the Monorail project, Mumbai Port Trust Development Plan (MBPT) and building of new highways in the city. These are massive changes being undertaken by various public – private authorities with a promise to reshape the livelihood of 2.2 million residents. These projects are aimed at making Mumbai a Smart City with top class infrastructure. Most of these projects promise to transform travel patterns by reducing commuting time and provide greater connectivity.
The campaign ‘UNITED FOR CHANGE’ is a force to fight the ecological imbalance and damage caused by the aforementioned projects. Mumbai is witnessing destruction of its natural eco-systems at unprecedented rate. Over the past decade, Mumbai’s climate patterns has changed with inconsistent rains and rise in average temperatures during summers. The city has already lost its green cover and the green belt of Aarey forest has come under direct threat with Metro car shed.
Further there are issues of wetlands and mangroves which is impacting the marine life. The natural habitat of the sea birds is diminishing and so is the coral life. All that the citizens are demanding from the politicians is a green manifesto. India is moving towards its general elections where polling will start in the 3rd week of April. UNITED FOR CHANGE has drafted an Environment Manifesto with inputs from all the stakeholders. This Manifesto will be handed over to the political parties with a firm message of eco-friendly development without any compromise and damage to the nature.
Am not sure to what extent will the authorities cooperate but am glad to see that so many people stepped out with one single voice. It is important that we do not ignore the situation and have our say. Governments are elected by the citizens where development should be progressive. But it is also critical that development should be participative and people’s interest should be safeguarded.
At times, due to vested interests authorities approve plans without estimating it’s long term implications. However, citizen activism can play a big role in correcting the course of action. I was satisfied to see people of all age groups and walks of life participating in the HUMAN CHAIN. I feel this is just the right beginning that Mumbai needs but it should not stop here. A better idea would be to ensure that the politicians are reminded that a government is off the people, by the people and for the people.
Two volunteers were rope walking to attract crowd.
Author: Vijay Malhotra, Mumbai