Mumbai's Powai lake gets a facelift

The beautified Powai Lake is all set to be inaugurated on Saturday, giving Mumbaikars yet another improved green space. It is the first revamped waterfront in the eastern suburbs. It’s been four years since the project began, during which time the cost shot up from Rs 8 crore to Rs 34 crore. A 2-km-long waterfront has been created along the 120-year-old lake, which has a Ganesh Ghat at the west end and the Powai Garden on the east. The beautification is 90% complete, according to additional municipal commissioner Aseem Gupta, who till recently was in charge of water supply. Though the lake does not supply potable water to the city, it is part of the hydraulic engineering (HE) department’s assets and has been beautified with its funds. The 2-km stretch, which is yet to be completed, is being developed as a seamless walkway. It skirts a children’s play area, then passes between the lake and landscaped slopes as it snakes upwards and runs parallel to the main road, where visitors can enter a park that again leads to the lakefront. Along the way, there are several viewing decks for visitors to relax and watch the lake. The biggest viewing deck is inside the park. It is semi-circular and has grassfilled stairs on which people can sit and watch the fountains set up in the lake. A low retaining wall has been built along the lake to prevent visitors from stepping into the water and becoming potential food for the 70 resident crocodiles there. While the city can rejoice in getting yet another public space, something stinks, and that’s the lake itself. Though the lakefront looks beautiful, the lake itself has not been cleaned. One may not have to exactly hold their nose, but the water is filled with sewage. “The remaining beautification work won’t be taken up till the 13 sewerage outlets that empty into the lake are closed,” said Gupta. The sewage lines had been shut as part of the lake-cleaning process, but they were opened after the MMRDA, which was widening Adi Shankaracharya Marg, damaged existing sewer lines. The damaged lines have not been repaired though the roadwork is complete. Gupta said the BMC would do the sewer repairs, estimated to cost Rs 4 crore. “HE department will spend the money,” he said. Environmentalists added that Powai Lake was badly in need of desilting. The beautification has already begun to draw politicians looking for mileage before the BMC elections. The Shiv Sena-BJP is the ruling party in the BMC and the HE department has organized a formal inauguration on Saturday with Sena CEO Uddhav Thackeray as the chief guest. Several environmentalists and citizens have expressed dismay over the fountains in the revamped Powai Lake. They said the four fountains were an artificial addition that actually mar the natural beauty of the lake. Wetlands naturalist Rishi Agarwaal added, “It is a habitat for several bird species and crocodiles. It is being spoiled by artificial fountains.” Goenka agreed.

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