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Roads to nowhere

india Updated: Aug 19, 2009 00:25 IST
Hindustan Times

The expansive elevated stretch of the Santacruz-Chembur Link Road (SCLR) near Kurla station dwarfs the Sable Nagar slum cluster below. But it’s the clutch of huts that forms an immovable obstacle to the structure, termed an engineering marvel by National Geographic. The World Bank-funded road cannot progress till the slum-dwellers are shifted.

Welcome to SCLR’s ground zero.

The slum-dwellers will now move into 225 sq ft apartments near Mankhurd or Kanjurmarg, much against their will. When the slum-dwellers have gone and the two-deck bridge gets ready, you will be able to zip between Santacruz and Chembur in 17 minutes. It takes two hours now.

But the road has been under construction since 2003 and the delay over shifting of slums is only the latest hurdle. Chawls, community centres, prayer houses, electricity towers... The list of hurdles is unending. It is these, more than the technology, that are costing the state dear. The cost has gone from Rs 114.88 crore to Rs 209.68 crore and the road, that was to have been ready by 2005, will now open only next year.

Work on the Jogeshwari-Vikhroli Link Road (JVLR), connecting the eastern and western suburbs, is also languishing. In this case, it’s a railway overbridge at Kanjurmarg that is holding up the project. Central Railway has asked the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) to rework the design. Because the bridge is not ready, the six-lane road turns into a two-lane bottleneck over the tracks.

Work is also stuck between the Eastern Express Highway and LBS Road. There is no street lighting and “the signals function on generators”, said a traffic policeman.

“Didn’t the planners understand what was needed to build such complex structures?” said lawyer Jitendra Gupta, a member of the Citizen Transport Committee and the Forum for Improving Quality of Life in Mumbai-Suburbs.

Milind Mhaiskar, additional metropolitan commissioner and project director, countered: “This is a mega project. The delay is project-specific; actual work on the SCLR began in 2007, not 2003, as the World Bank suspended loans for a while. As for the JVLR, it should be ready by December 2009.”

However, contract documents on the World Bank website show that construction begun in September 2003.