Sunday, July 21, 2013

Visiting Belapur's Palm Beach Road (and checking out the mangroves)

- By Deepa Krishnan

A couple of weeks ago, I went with my sister Roopa to the inauguration of her friend's furniture showroom in Belapur.

After many years doing large corporate contracts and custom work, Roopa's friend Subhangi had finally set up a retail store in CBD Belapur.
Roopa (left) with Subhangi (in saree) 
A retail store - especially with a branded line of home furniture - was a dream come true for Subhangi, and we wanted to congratulate her. In our little Brahmin community, very few people turn entrepreneurs. And as for women entrepreneurs, honestly, I can't even count a handful.

I was pretty pleased to see what a good job Subhangi had done, and how nice the shop looked. Subhangi calls her product line Furnicheer. My sis and I agreed that it was indeed very cheerful, just the sort of thing you need to brighten up a rainy day.
Traditional Indian fabrics, silk and zari, used to add drama to the home
I had not been to Belapur for over 10 years. So it was a complete surprise to see how much the area has changed, especially the upscale Palm Beach Road. Everywhere I looked, there were lots of branded outlets.
These are the shops opposite Furnicheer
Here is another photo from a little further down the road:
There were many restaurants and shops.
Residential colony, just off Palm Beach Road.
There are lots of apartment complexes like these.
In case you are wondering where this Palm Beach Road is, check out this map (click on it to see a larger version). The pink shaded area is CBD Belapur, in Navi Mumbai. Palm Beach is a stretch of road about 10 kilometers long, running parallel to the coast, which takes you to CBD Belapur. To the left of Palm Beach Road is a green belt, this is the coastal mangrove stretch which is critical to Navi Mumbai.
Palm Beach Road runs right along the coast
and then curves into CBD Belapur.
Here's what the road looks like - it has 6 lanes (3 on each side of the road) and no potholes. The western side of the road is parallel to the sea. The eastern side is where most of the buildings are located (many of them offer views of the sea from higher floors).
Grainy photo of Palm Beach Road, from the inside of my car. You can see some of the palms which give this road its name. 
This is what the green belt on the western side looks like:
Typical section of mangrove belt
as seen from Palm Beach Road
The Soonabai Godrej Marine Ecology Centre has published a map of Navi Mumbai's mangroves. You can clearly see the green stretch covering Thane Creek.
The Thane creek area is bordered by mangroves on both sides
The Ministry of Enviroment and Forests has defined Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) rules to prevent the destruction of mangroves. However, there are several instances of dumping and encroachment along Palm Beach Road, and there was a news item last month that more than 500 buildings (!!) along Palm Beach Road have not acquired the necessary CRZ clearances. Obviously, the management of this mangrove cover is far from ideal.
This photo is from Alok Bhave's Nature Watch blog, he went to Talawe (which is on Palm Beach road) for a bird-watching session. In the background you can see many of the residential blocks that have come up.
Travelling along the Palm Beach Road, seeing the large scale buildings, malls and shops made me realize the contrast between the natural cover of the land, and the man-made developments that are changing it. The change has both good and bad aspects to it. While we want better roads, better homes, better shops and better infrastructure; we also want these wetlands to remain with us.
This photo is from Ritesh's Birding and Photography blog. It is a group of 100+ flamingoes on Palm Beach Road.
Often people think that the "Save the Mangroves" issue is a conflict between the "greens" versus practical people who want development. But mangroves are not just about birds or pretty scenery - they are a practical necessity, to safeguard Mumbai from land erosion and flooding; to keep the value of our real estate intact. They work as the city's kidneys and lungs, they flush out toxins. The conflict therefore, is really between the immediate/short-term gains of destroying the mangroves for lucrative development projects, versus the long term gains of protecting them.

My position is clear - I want the shops and the homes and the big smooth roads, most definitely. But I really believe this can be done without flouting all kinds of norms. We just need the mindset to look for the right solutions (and more important, the willingness to pay the real cost for these amenities). I am very pleased that there is now media reporting and awareness of these 500+ buildings which have broken the rules. If we have a few high profile cases like this (and the earlier Adarsh scam), I think it will eventually push builders towards a more law-abiding mindset.


Sarah Wilson said...

If they are willing to flout these rules it makes me wonder how many others they ignore too.
How safe are those building?
Have they used substandard materials?

goldie said...

A very interesting article, and good wishes to Subhangi on her new venture. I love the look of the products.

DeeMital said...

Yayy! Am so happy to see Subhangi and her shop here! She is my erstwhile neighbour/friend/designer of our home....:)
And totally agree that CIDCO should do a better job in safeguarding the coastline and greenery.

Anonymous said...

Thank you deepa for putting it together so well.It was great having you at the launch.

Thank you deepika,missed you at the event.

harsha menon said...

Wow!!!so beautifully put up....

Anonymous said...

I am really HAPPY to see the way subhangi is growing..!! i can say only she is a role model, CREATIVE,ETHICAL,QUALITY,right decision maker. wish you all the best..!!keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

I am a non-Indian and I was just curious to know what jobs typically those of the Brahmin community have? :)

Deepa Krishnan said...

Usually salaried jobs. Teaching. Government jobs as well as private sector jobs.