The BMC is proposing to construct a 1.3 km Ghatkopar-Mankhurd viaduct. Is the flyover being planned with the intention of increasing mobility of people or motor cars?
After the commencement of the Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP), a partially World Bank funded project, the Government of Maharashtra (GoMah) embarked on improvement of road infrastructure with the intent to improve the growing road congestions in Greater Mumbai. This was being done through its metropolitan regional planning entity called Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) bypassing the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai. The planning entity was also given the mandate to execute the near about Rs2,500 crore project called Mumbai Urban Infrastructure Project (MUIP).
The plans were put down by MMRDA and approved by the GoMah, subverting the essence of democratic process where the local urban body was denied the right to determine its pattern of development, going contrary to the Constitution, especially after the 74th Constitution Amendment Act was passed in the 1992.
Why is the state government usurping the democratic self governing ethos by doing things precisely in an unaccountable manner? After all it is only the cabinet that clears the actions or proposals of MMRDA and MMRDA comprise of only ‘experts’ in urban and town planning; besides how many in the cabinet are from the city? If one looks at number of members of the legislative assembly, it is substantial—36—good enough to determine which party can come to power, but not strong enough to be in the cabinet that could give vent to the aspirations of the city-dwellers.
The latest news is that Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM i.e. BMC) is proposing to construct a 1.3 km Ghatkopar-Mankhurd viaduct.
There was a time in the developed countries when they thought of mobility can and has to be achieved through use of motorized personal transport. As the need of roads increased, they began providing more roads and grade separators by way of flyovers and viaducts. They have realized to their dismay that such infrastructure does not help in mobility of the people. They only accentuate additional problems such as noise and air pollution and the need for parking infrastructure. They also realized that the congestion point only shifts and distance to be driven increases. Whereas speeds did increase, casualty figures in accidents also increased. Therefore, fundamentally, a flyover is not such a good idea. In fact in Seoul, they even dismantled a flyover and restored a canal and made it accessible open public space with emphasis to public transport, BRTS in particular. It requires courage to do some introspection and decide what public good is. It took a while and plenty of public consultations before the final decision.
Penalosa, erstwhile mayor of Bogota, Columbia took courage to implement various public friendly projects including the Transmilenio BRTS while exercising his elected mandate to self govern his city.
The next question to ask is, is the flyover being planned with the intention of increasing mobility of people or motor cars? If it is the former, has the Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) been considered in working out details. Since BRTS for Mumbai seems to have been shelved by GoMah for unknown reasons, the subject of flyover obviously would have been thought out with motor cars central to the problem to be addressed.
It is a positive sign that Uddhav Thackeray has taken the position to reassert the right of a local self government. In the coming two years, the BMC can perform well and should by asserting itself. BRTS, if one analyses dispassionately, is the only option we have to overcome the current road jams and provide mobility to the masses and an option to move out of congestion and associated problems to those using motorized personal vehicles.
If putting up the Ghatkopar-Mankhurd viaduct is to show reassertion of political will of the Mumbaikar, then it should be welcomed. It would also be politically as well as technically sound if this viaduct as well as all physical infrastructures the BMC wish to take up are with walking, cycling and BRTS central to it.
(Sudhir Badami is a civil engineer and transportation analyst. He is on Government of Maharashtra’s Steering Committee on BRTS for Mumbai and Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority’s Technical Advisory Committee on BRTS for Mumbai. He is also member of Research & MIS Committee of Unified Mumbai Metropolitan Transport Authority. He was member of Bombay High Court appointed erstwhile Road Monitoring Committee (2006-07). He is member of the Committee Constituted by the Bombay High Court for making the Railways, especially the Suburban Railways System Friendly towards Persons with Disability (2011- ). While he has been an active campaigner against Noise for more than a decade, he is a strong believer in functioning democracy. He can be contacted at email@example.com)
NGOs and social activists have together written a letter to the BMC and Mumbai Police chiefs supporting the BMC staff for taking effective action against encroachments like hawkers and structures in Dadar station area
Leading civic activists and non-governmental organisations from Mumbai have lent their support to the civic body Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) assistant commissioner DK Jain who has been allegedly held responsible by a politically motivated union for the death of newspaper vendor during his anti-hawker drives around Dadar station following a Supreme Court order.
According to the rules—hawkers at no-hawking zone, hoardings at traffic signals and authorised slum structures where alternate accommodation is given—are deemed as encroachment and have to be razed down or evacuated by the civic body.
NGOs (non-government organisations) such as India Against Corruption, Mumbai 227, Flank Road Citizens’ Forum and Moneylife Foundation have together written a letter to municipal commissioner Sitaram Kunte and police commissioner Arup Patnaik supporting the BMC staff for taking effective action against encroachments from hawkers and structures and calling for a high-level understanding between municipal and police authorities to provide support while carrying out firm action against such encroachments.
“We, as voluntary organisations of the citizens also seek properly co-ordinated support from both authorities, to the staff of municipal wards and police stations, request both BMC and Mumbai Police co-ordinate actions of your staff to enable them to take effective steps against encroachments,” says the letter.
According to a news report, Brihanmumbai Vruttapatra Vikreta Sangh (BVSS), led by senior Shiv Sena leader Subhash Desai, had called municipal commissioner Sitaram Kunte with a demand that a First Information Report (FIR) be lodged against Mr Jain for the death of the vendor on 10th May after his illegal stall was removed, leading to a cardiac arrest. They alleged that Mr Jain had thrashed the vendor, which led to his death. The association had also called a day’s strike on 19th May demanding stern action against Mr Jain.
However, the BMC had refuted all allegations saying that the vendor died in hospital after his relative admitted him, when suffered the cardiac attack.
Ashok Ravat, president of Citizens Forum, G/North and member of advance locality movement (ALM), Shivaji Park (Dadar), who is also spearheading the signature campaign, told Moneylife, “One ward (of BMC) has already contacted us for the help they require. Others will also seek assistance. Meanwhile, the movement is definitely gaining momentum.”
“This eviction drive has given complete relief to both pedestrian and vehicular traffic around the crowded Dadar station. The whole strike was politically motivated. The municipal commissioner himself has said on record that the cause of death has nothing do with the eviction drive,” says Nagesh Kini, member of Mogul Lane - Mahim, ALM, who is active in designing this signature campaign. Mr Kini has successfully collected 53 signatures and also written a letter to the municipal commissioner.
Bhaskar Prabhu, convenor Mahiti Adhikar Manch, a Right to Information (RTI) forum says that, “The BMC achieved what has been impossible in any other part of Mumbai that is in eliminating the hawker menace for a good six weeks. If we, the citizens fail to offer support, then cases of hawkers working with politicians and the police to attack and harass ordinary citizens who protest against them will only increase.”
The campaign is supported by eminent activists from various fields including Indrani Malkani, member of an ALM, GR Vora, a Mumbai-based RTI activist, Sumaira Abdulali of Awaaz Foundation and Ashok Datar, a well know transport activist, among others.
“With the support of citizens, G/North ward staff now feels empowered to continue the action against all types of encroachment,” adds Mr Ravat.
What is not final is the governmental policy decision on the aspects to which the Western Ghat report submitted by Prof Gadgil panel relates, the High Court said
The Delhi High Court, while upholding the order passed by Shailesh Gandhi, Central Information Commissioner (CIC), has asked the ministry of environment and forest (MOEF) to publish the report by Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) on its website.
“There is no reason for the petitioner (the government) to entertain the apprehension that the disclosure of the WGEEP report, at this stage, would impede the decision making process and also would adversely affect the scientific or economic interests of the states. The broad-based participative process of debate would, in fact, help the MOEF and the concerned states in arriving at a policy decision, which is in the larger interest and for public good,” justice Vipin Sanghi said in an order dated 17 May 2012.
Last month, the CIC passed an order asking the government to provide an attested copy of the summary of the WGEEP report and the report on the Athirappilly Hydro Electric Project in Kerala to G Krishnan. Mr Gandhi, the CIC, also asked the MOEF to place the WGEEP report in the ministry’s website before 10 May 2012.
The government then filed a petition in the high court against the decision of the CIC.
The MOEF constituted an expert panel on 4 March 2010 called the WGEEP under the chairmanship of Prof Madhav Gadgil. The expert panel had 13 members. The expert panel was constituted in recognition of the fact that the Western Ghats is one of the 34 global biodiversity hotspots, and is considered environmentally sensitive and ecologically significant.
Appearing for the government, Indira Jaising, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) submitted that before the recommendations of the WGEEP panel are accepted by the central government, the views of different states that are likely to be affected are required to be considered. “If, at this stage, the WGEEP panel report is made public, even before obtaining and considering the views of the affected states, there would be a spate of applications seeking notification of certain areas as ecologically sensitive, based on the recommendations contained in the WGEEP report,” she said.
Earlier, while passing an order, the CIC had said, “The disclosure of the WGEEP report would enable citizens to voice their opinions with the information made available in the report. Such opinions will be based on the credible information provided by an expert panel constituted by the government. This would facilitate an informed discussion between citizens based on a report prepared with their/public money. MOEF’s unwillingness to be transparent is likely to give citizens an impression that most decisions are taken in furtherance of corruption resulting in a serious trust deficit.”
Justice Sanghi, in his order, said, “Having considered the submissions of the learned ASG and perused the record including the impugned order, I am of the view that there is no merit in this petition, and I am inclined to agree with the reasoning adopted by the learned CIC for allowing the respondent’s appeal and directing disclosure of the WGEEP report prepared by Prof Madhav Gadgil committee and panel.”
The public information officer (PIO) and the MOEF had tried to maintain that the report submitted by the Prof Gadgil panel is not final. However, the HC said the panel has submitted its report and now it is for the MOEF to act on it in consultation with affected states.
“If there are any shortcomings or deficiencies in the said report, inter alia, for the reason that the same is based on incomplete or deficient data, or for any other reason, the said factor would go into the decision-making process of the MOEF and the concerned states. But it cannot be said that the said report is not final. What is not final is the governmental policy decision on the aspects to which the WGEEP report relates. The said report is one of the ingredients, which the MOEF and the concerned states would take into consideration while formulating their policy in relation to the Western Ghats ecology,” justice Sanghi said.
The Western Ghats have complex inter-state character as they are spread across an area of about 1.29 lakh sq km, in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra and Gujarat. There are apprehension in the government that the recommendations of the WGEEP would influence many sectoral activities, such as agricultural land use, mining industry, tourism, water resources, power, roads and railways.