20 Years Later, This Community's Fight To Save A 400-Year-Old Pond In Kalina Has Finally Paid Off!

20 Years Later, This Community's Fight To Save A 400-Year-Old Pond In Kalina Has Finally Paid Off!
Indian Express

Did you know that Kalina had a 400 year old pond that belonged to the East Indian Community? For over 20 years, the Kolovery Welfare Association (KWA) from the Kolovery village in Kalina has been fighting to restore their ancient East Indian traditions with the pond. It comes as a small victory that they have finally found some solace in an artificial pond.

The pond currently occupies a little less than an acre but the revival plan has 3.5 acres in the making. Although the president of KWA says that the natural pond was more than 7 acres before the encroachment and dumping of debris began. It is said that the natural pond could collect rainwater that would last all year and had even formed a rivulet that joined the Mithi river and countered flooding. “22 years ago, debris from construction started being dumped illegally in the pond and gradually it was covered by filth and garbage. There was an encroachment on the land by squatters. We have been fighting for the water body since two decades and although we have won the decision, the pond is a far cry from its original glory. It is a rule to restore a natural pond to its original environment and only a part of the tank has been opened up. We will continue to fight for the original pond,” he said.

The KWA in front of their cherished pond that was inaugurated on Oct 30. Image Courtesy: Vidya Subramanian HT

Times of India reported in 2014 that the pond was ecologically beneficial for the low lying ares of Kalina that face the brunt of flooding almost every monsoon. “A landmark, the Kalina Talao, has been wiped off the city’s ecological map. This 7.5 acre, four-century-old pond, once teeming with birds and marine life, now stands covered with mud and debris at the Kolovery Village in Kalina. “The pond, which was a natural open and underground reservoir till 2001, allowed rainwater from the Air India Colony to go via Resham Singh nullah and flow into the Mithi River. Today all low-lying areas in this ward are flooded because of the disappeareance of this pond,” said Loy Dias, resident, Gulistan Manzil and chairman, Voice of Kalina,” reported TOI.

Ever since the BMC has come around and taken up the project, slowly but surely the entire surrounding neighbourhood could look very different from its derelict days. “18,000-square metre plot in Kalina’s Kolovery village had a 3-foot high construction debris and illegal shanties on it. The debris will now be used to create hillock-like structures around the reconstructed pond, which the garden cell claims will be ready in the next three months.While the pond will measure around 5,500 sq m, there will be walkways and seating arrangements for visitors, built atop the ‘hillocks’ and around the pond at a cost of Rs 3.5 crore,” reported the Indian Express.

Image Courtesy: Mumbai Mirror

Although only one-third of the actual pond is being revived, the 4000 members strong community is positive that they will resume their traditions with the pond which includes sporting activities, wedding traditions, community get-togethers and more. “We have an ‘Umbracha Pani’ tradition where the bride and grrom bathe in the water of a nearby water body and the tradition was carried on here when the natural pond existed. Many generations of the village have fond memories attached to the pond. In the summer during May, we celebrate a huge festival in the honour of our patron saint of the village and we used to organize a lot of sports and entertainment activities in which even international players would take part. This comes a gift for us but we would have appreciated it if the authorities had consulted the village elders and sought their guidance or advice on how they want their pond,” he told us.

Misquitta also said that encroachments haven’t been razed from the boundary of the pond area and the water in the pond has already dried up. “A natural pond can revive itself with natural springs. We can have marine life, fishing, an eco-system for birds, animals and insects and community activities. We just want the pond to return to its original glory,” he said.

Two decades of fighting later the community can rejoice but there was a lot that went into it. “In 2002, the Bombay high court directed the BMC to revive the pond after the latter had come up with a Rs3.6-crore restoration plan that included a jogging track and a garden. The area was marked as a garden under the development plan (DP) 1991. Between 2005 and 2007, a jogging track and benches came up, but all the encroachments could not be demolished. Following a lot of back and forth, in 2012, Brian Miranda, the local corporator, spearheaded the discussions and another plan was drafted along with the BMC to flatten the 15-foot-high construction debris and build an artificial pond along with a football field, garden and play area for children at a cost of Rs3.4 crore,” reported Hindustan Times.

The Kalina Pond. Image Courtesy: Indian Express

The area has been named Joseph Baptista Garden, the first mayor of Mumbai and also a luminary East Indian who was a legal aid to Lokmanya Tilak and coined the famous “Swaraj is my birthright and I shall have it.” We could truly learn from the spirit of the community who claimed their rights to their history and fought hard for it.

Feature Image Courtesy: Indian Express

Words: Preksha Malu