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Life in a Metro

india Updated: Aug 18, 2009 01:24 IST
Zeeshan Shaikh

Mohammed Sajid, a social worker in Andheri (W), and KP Maheshwari, director of Mumbai Metro One Pvt Ltd, come from different worlds. But they have one thing in common: both are in a tizzy over the government’s plan to create an all-new transport system to connect Mumbai’s western and central suburbs.

As Maheshwari puts in 17-hour days to build the 11.4-km Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar Metro line, Sajid and innumerable others spend sleepless nights worrying about how the project will affect their neighbourhood.

“This project is good for the city’s growth, but you must also consider the effect on our lives,” said Sajid. His neighbourhood, the area around Navrang cinema, had to spend days without water after Metro workers broke a sewage line in March.

The Metro was touted as a panacea for Mumbai’s transport problems, but as the construction narrows roads and throws traffic out of gear, the sheen is slowly wearing off. Several citizens are opposing the project.

The public opposition and lengthy litigation over a 31-acre plot, where a parking shed for the rakes was to be built, had held up construction, which was to have started in September 2007.

Work finally began in February 2008 — 17 months after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh laid the foundation stone.

Now, after all the opposition and two fatal accidents later, officials said the project will be completed by September 2010. “We hope to complete the project ahead of the deadline, subject to availability of land and clearances,” said Maheshwari.

Land remains the key. The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), which is coordinating the project, has cleared only nine kilometres of the 11.4-km route. “There are some issues on the remaining stretch. We are working towards handing over the rest to Reliance Infrastructure [which is building the line] soon,” said MMRDA spokesman Dilip Kawathkar.

Officials were at a loss to explain why the government didn’t remove the encroachments before work started.

The Metro will reduce travel time between Versova and Ghatkopar from a harrowing 90 minutes to 21 minutes, but many like Sajid wonder if it could have happened minus all the trouble.