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A garden takes root

Work has begun in right earnest on a jogger's park and several other amenities at the old Marol tank.

Marolites got a nice gift on 30 January this year. On that day, the Lions Club of Marol's proposed garden at the old tank was inaugurated by Smita Thackeray. The club has ambitious plans to build a jogger's track, a children's park, a study park, a walking track for senior citizens, tennis courts and so on. It has already spent about Rs 10 lakh on the project and proposes to spend Rs 50-60 lakh, though some say that the total cost may be more than Rs 1 crore.

Although many within and outside the Lions Club have helped bring the project to its present stage, the person who deserves most credit is Prafulla Muranjan. His association with the garden goes back nearly a decade to the time when he was president of the local Ganesh Utsav Mandal.

After the tank had been filled in he approached the municipal corporation on behalf of the mandal to gain possession of the site. S.S. Tinaikar, who was then the municipal commissioner, handed it over to the mandal for development. Says Muranjan: "He was worried that unauthorised structures would come up on the site and asked us to protect it."

But although the mandal was successful in preventing significant encroachments, it had no funds to carry out any development work. So Muranjan, who had been president of the Lions Club of Marol from 1983-85, suggested that it take up the project. In 1996-97 the club was to celebrate its silver jubilee and Muranjan pointed out that although the club called itself the Lions Club of Marol it had not undertaken any major project in the village itself. After discussions with the corporation the site was handed over to the club around June 1996.

The club took up the task of building a boundary wall but it faced serious obstacles. The biggest was that it had no legal access. The plot on its northern side was privately owned and a possible entry point on the eastern side was blocked by unauthorised structures. It was only late last year that the latter were removed by the municipal corporation. Soon after, the club put up two gates at the northern and eastern sides. Next, it constructed a boundary wall of 300 feet and brought in 400 lorryloads of red soil to level the site.

By the time of the inauguration on 30 January, the path for a jogger's track had been laid out. Twenty trees were planted on the day of the inauguration and 400 more are to be planted by June. Later, during the monsoon, more will be planted in stages. An expert has been consulted to grow medicinal plants. The first sub-project to be taken up will be a children's park. Next will come a students' park in which drinking water and all-night lighting will be provided so that poor students can study there. Also to be constructed are a walking track solely for senior citizens and a martyrs' monument

Where will funds for the project come from? The Lions Club International is expected to contribute some money. The Lions Club of Marol also hopes to enlist members to the project for a fee. The garden may be reserved for them for part of the day. Tennis courts may also be set up and memberships sold. Finally, an entrance fee will be charged to take care of at least the operational costs.

It may be a few years before the complete project sees the light of day. But work is on at full swing now. And Marolites can derive satisfaction from the fact that private citizens are contributing time, money and effort to build an amenity that a bankrupt municipal corporation could never have done.

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