P.K. Das is a well known Architect-Activist and his work speaks with a strong emphasis on participatory planning, integrating architecture and democracy to bring about desired social changes in a city. At the fellowship ideas exchange held in 2019 he presented the case of reclaiming Mumbai's public spaces and the citizen based movement around Irla Nullah canal regeneration and reclaiming it as a public space for its residents.
In this inspiring session around natural systems and public movement towards cleaner environment he presented more than a decade long timeline how many of Mumbai's waterfronts and public areas were reclaimed as public spaces.
The Irla Nullah project and key takeaways
"Juhugiri Pyaar Se" a people's movement to improve neighborhoods to "Vision plans" he emphasized the driving of citizen based participation to undertake change and ownership of projects.
Understanding the ecological water structure of a city is important and the movement highlighted the degradation of mangroves, wetlands, creeks, salt pans, rivers, lakes, beaches, hills and forests in the case of Mumbai. The Irla Nullah Re-invigoration Plan was part of a larger citizens’ movement advocating the Juhu Vision Plan that covers an area of 4 sq. km -- it focuses on cleaning and turning the waters of a polluted and much-abused natural watercourse backyard and its immediate precinct in the western suburb of Juhu into a vibrant public space and neighborhood fore-court generating rich social, political and environmental dividends since these are the natural storm water drains of the city.
The project proposal also consisted a chain of public parks along Irla Nullah forming an immaculate ‘city forest’ within a dense urban setting with walking and cycling facilities.
His design team has worked closely with the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) to develop a system for cleaning the water such as silt trap beds, compact treatment units or floating beds of phytorid plants.