The Worli Village Link

July 15, 2009

Out of sight, out of mind’ has been a credo much loved by city officials. If you can’t solve a problem – just hide it. Cities like Delhi have taken this to a fine art. You can’t imagine that India’s capital has a huge population living in shanties and temporary tenements, simply because you don’t see them. They have been shunted out to the peripheries, behind the river and tucked away in the crevices of posh colonies.

Design and architectural projects often have a dual use in this hide-and-don’tseek game. They fulfil their stated functions – transporting people, providing homes in high-rise structures – and also provide new visual vistas for the city.

The very same metropolis appears vastly different from a great height or from across a bridge. Once the visual signature becomes part of the public imagination, it shapes the way we think.

That is why the IMAX-scale Bandra-Worli Sea Link experience needs to be handled with care. On one side of the bridge lies glamorous Bandra, while on the other lies a 400-year-old fishing village that has been directly affected by the construction of the bridge. Now that the lives of the fishing community have been substantially impacted, having reached the point of no return, they are worried about another danger – that of coming under the entire city’s spotlight.

Already, one hears of complaints against the supposedly unpleasant sight of what is being described as a slum. The fact that some members of the village do not have access to private or public toilets is being used as an argument about the entire settlement.

The fact is that the village of Worli Koliwada has a full-fledged functioning local political body with a highly educated and informed leadership. They deal with the issues of religious diversity (many of the Kolis are Christians) and migrants (several tenants living in the village from all over the country) with sophistication and maturity. They have a systematic and inclusive approach in decision-making through regular community meetings. In these meetings they have regular discussions and debates about what is the best way ahead for them. The leadership has access to good and skilled people who have been associated with the village’s development for decades.

The villagers know fully well that entering the visual map of the city through the Bandra-Worli Sea Link can move both ways. It can make it even more difficult for them to survive if the media projects them as a slum, which needs to be dealt with through real estate development projects. Or it can do something else altogether – convince Mumbai’s authorities that the best way ahead is to recognise the fact that the villages of Mumbai, while needing special inputs in sewage, drainage and toilet facilities, are actually well-equipped with skills to evolve and modernise on their own.

The Worli Koliwada leaders are way ahead of many others in this regard. The authorities simply need to respond to them supportively and recognise their habitat as such. This will help the residents of the village – the Kolis as well as the tenants – to improve and transform their habitat according to their own aspirations and choices.

If this indeed happens, what Mumbai will be rewarded with at the end of the road, is a beautiful, modern habitat that preserves the city’s unusual urban legacy – one that includes villages, full of chapels and shrines, where the original Marathi manoos wove the city’s cosmopolitan fabric we are so proud of today.

4 Comments »

  1. There is another aspect to the Bandra Worli sea link which is not talked about much. And it is not about the rich and poor but deals with Mumbai as a whole. Mumbai is one of the few and probably the only Indian city where there is a direct relationship of urban lifestyle with the water. A city where there exists a prime waterfront and it rightly carries the most expensive real estate in India along with it.

    The future plans for Bandra Worli sea link extend it all the way to marine drive with an elevated road built on the sea which punctures the bay at marine drive. I am surprised at the sheer audacity of this planning initiative which will be an irreversible ugly addition to the City.

    Mumbai should turn its eyes away from the flashy lights of the new concrete icons and take note of the damage this haphazard development is causing to it.

    Comment by prasoon — August 5, 2009 @ 9:14 am

  2. As we all know, the Bandra-Worli Sea Link is now an asset of our metropolis. All those of you who have traveled by the BWSL have surely noticed the remnants of Worli Fort along side the bridge.

    The Worli Fort(Marathi:वरळी किल्ला) is an ancient British fort in Worli area in Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India.[1] The fort, often mistakenly referred to as being built by the Portuguese, was actually built by the British around 1675. The fort, built on the Worli hill, overlooked the Mahim Bay at a time the city was made up of just seven islands. It was used as a lookout for enemy ships and pirates.

    The upkeep of the fort has been impossible due to its inaccessibility, as the roads leading to it are completely blocked by illegal hutments that have cropped up over the years, only to be overlooked by the local authorities for the sake of electoral gain and bribes paid for allowing illegal constructions. The fort is completely in ruins today and a slum has enveloped the edifice, making it a den for illegal activities like the brewing of illicit liquor within its confines. A bell tower peeps out of the ruins and the ramparts are used to dry clothes. Historians have often called for the protection of the area but their efforts have fallen on deaf ears. This in spite of an NGO claiming to have adopted the Worli Village, where the fort is located. As on 28-11-2007, the Worli Fort seems to be getting a face-lift,but honestly, the face-lift is giving it the look of a “Disneyworld artificial creation” rather than a “Historical edifice”.The “Original decrepit fort” had “History” written all over it but was neglected due to various reasons and finally public recognition through letters have forced the government to renovate the ruins.The fort premises contains a ’suicide well’ which at present is completely filled with muck.

    I plan to start an awareness campaign for the restoration and beautification. I request support from one and all. Please follow this discussion for further updates.

    Shoan +91 98333 73790

    Comment by Shoan Shinde — September 14, 2009 @ 9:23 am

  3. One can only see the ancient forts, Worli sea link, and other issues which needs to be resolved, but what about the people(locals) staying there from many decades. Are they not entiteled to the basic requirements???? There are well educated people residing preferablly MBA, Engineers, Doctors who deserve much more being a tax payer. All of us are politically exploited, drainages..toilets..water supply, favorable staying condtions.

    Comment by Jitendra Y — December 30, 2009 @ 10:16 am

  4. [...] Worli-Bandra Sealink viewed from Worli’s Koliwada (Fisher folks village) Comments [...]

    Pingback by Mumbai’s liquid grounds | airoots/eirut — February 2, 2010 @ 11:23 pm

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