Dahisar in danger

River restoration project goes into overdrive

By Nidhi Jamwal
Published: Saturday 31 December 2005

RACHANA SANSAD’S INSTITUTE OF ENVIORNMENTAL ARHCITECTUREThe deluge that caught Mumbai by surprise on July 26, 2005 has sent warning signals to areas situated along Dahisar river. The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai’s (MCGM’s) staff in Rnorth ward of the Dahisar area, its councillors and residents have woken up to the danger, but some proposed solutions might exacerbate the problem. The concern over the state of the river has to do with flooding. The experience with the Mithi river showed Mumbaikars that if rivers remained choked, they would be unable to drain water into the sea when it rained heavily. In this context, the decision to construct two big walls along the banks of the river is as quixotic as it is fundamentally counterproductive. The idea is the brainchild of N V Pai, assistant commissioner, R-north ward, who is leading a crusade to prevent Dahisar river from going the way of the choked Mithi river. “Without the wall, Dahisar river will face the same encroachment which the Mithi is facing today. The width of Dahisar in most places is 40 metres and I would like to protect that,” explains Pai. Environmentalists fear this will turn the river into a nullah and common sense says the high walls will prevent the passage of water to the sea. But there is some good news. There have been attempts to revive the Dahisar River Restoration Project (DRRP), prepared by Mumbai-based Rachna Sansad Institute of Environmental Architecture (RSIEA), which has been on hold. Dahisar originates in the Sanjay Gandhi National Park and ends at the Mira-Bhayander creek. The stretch between Sri Krishna Nagar and the creek is most polluted. Roshni Udyavar of RSIEA says: “The project (DRRP) aims to restore the river and make it perennial by implementing rainwater harvesting in the park through check dams. ...Water pollution needs to be controlled and a buffer zone created on the river banks.” Eighty per cent of the pollution consists of sewage and10 per cent solid waste. Organic waste from cattlesheds also flow into the river. A small amount of inorganic and chemical pollutants come from a nearby dhobi ghat. “Many buildings have sprung up on the river bank which lack proper municipal sewage disposal systems and discharge untreated sewage into the river,” says Indira Bhende, a Dahisar resident. She says many agencies want to fund DRRP, but it needs more inputs to be viable. Construction along the riverbank under the state government’s slum rehabilitation scheme has also raised questions. “No buffer area has been provided along the river. Under DRRP, we have earmarked landscape areas around the river that would automatically stop encroachment and avoid solid waste dumping,” says Bhende. Udyavar says the reed-bed system can be used for water treatment. But its viability needs to be worked out. RSIEA has prepared a report on collection and recycling of wastewater from the dhobi ghat, which is part of DRRP. Councillors have also implemented some schemes. Unfortunately, there is a lack of coordination, leading to wastage.

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