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 protected])