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A river hard done by

Documentary>> Making the sewer...A river again: Why Mumbai must reclaim its Mithi • Observer Research Foundation

By Bharat Lal Seth
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015


The film begins with images of a gushing stream, birds chirping and a typical audio overlay of the santoor that captures any pristine environment.

It then cuts to a lament; the story of the Mithi river hard done by.

The filmmakers have done well to capture the state of the 18-km river from its origin in Sanjay Gandhi National Park, as it flows through Mumbai, and to the estuarine ebb and flow into the Arabian Sea. It highlights the shortcomings of the redevelopment work undertaken after the 2005 deluge, which claimed nearly a thousand lives in the Mithi catchment. The film reveals that the Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority reclaimed no less than 300 football fields of space from the Mithi for the Bandra Kurla complex alone. It cuts to Google images that show how the river has been shaped and made to bend 90 degrees in quick succession. The river, more resembling a gutter, comprises a cocktail of untreated sewage and industrial effluents. It is clear the filmmakers took in the sights, sounds and smells that abound the river. It is well researched and based on a 92-page report which suggests a 21-point action plan based on the recommendations made by several government-appointed panels.

The author of the report, also scriptwriter for the film, would have done well to liven the narrative through anecdotes. The editor however uses Rajendra Singh, the waterman of India, who is effusive, as always. Narration is par for the course.

The film was released last month, deep inside the mangrove forest in the Mahim estuary where the Mithi meets the Arabian Sea.

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