Thane has gone by the monicker city of lakes for as long as I can remember.
Now I’ve been to the major ones dozens of times. But what would a circuit of the main lakes look and feel like?
Early one morning this week, we set out on a walk connecting seven major ones on the eastern side of the Eastern Express Highway (‘old’ Thane). Here’s what the route looked like:
Here’s a set of screenshots that show progress along the route (the blue dot is where we were; the time stamp is on the status bar at the top), the names of the lakes, and the overall distance:
In general the lakes are in far, far better shape than when I remember them in the nineties. Several of them, though, have yet to live up to their potential as clean, safe public spaces that are woefully scare in urban India.
Now for some pictures:
Began at Kachrali Lake opposite the Thane Municipal Corporation building. This is easily the best maintained of the lakes, with a large walking track, lighting that works, benches, overhead seating areas, even a tiny boating fountain at the center. Dead trees are colored with amusing, imaginative artwork. I’ve seen this lake being dredged and expanded as a child, just as I’ve seen the TMC building being constructed (and have simply wandered in and played in the construction site, in what were much simpler times). Ironically, I’ve missed taking a picture. So, to the next one:
Brahmala Lake. It’s ringed by a walking track and a garden that has, uniquely, public exercise equipment that’s well maintained and well made use of. Brahmala’s more a large pond than a lake, really, but it does well as an open air community center.
The last lake of the morning, Siddheshwar. Apparently it’s a miracle the lake even exists. Special interests had wanted to drain the lake and build atop it, stopped only by civic protests. Even today, the lake, while large, is infested with shanties alongside. At least there’s an excuse for a garden alongside.
BONUS: The same evening, we drove to two other major lakes on the other side of the Eastern Express Highway:
Finally, the Upwan Lake (or, alternately, Pokhran Lake). This is the largest in the city if you include both side of the highway, and is rather well maintained. It’s the site of a cultural festival every year (Facebook page).
The experience is a lot like the walk down Bombay’s wester coastline. Some lakes – Kachrali, Upwan, Jail lake, Bhramala – are beautiful, quiet, cool, airy, clean, and actively maintained. Some others have withstood indifferent maintenance to remain communal places – Masunda, Uthalsar, Raileshwar. The rest – Makhmali, Siddheshwar – have been actively neglected, are in a state of disrepair and are a net negative to the population around. Thane’s lakes have the potential to be the open community areas that the city needs – the population’s risen substantially in the last decade as a spillover from Bombay – but they haven’t lived up to their potential.