On paper, this is one central business district (CBD) that makes sense. Central Mumbai is connected to both the western and central railway lines and has many major roads connecting it to both the island city and the suburbs.
On the ground, though, the story is entirely different. While it boasts of high-rises that gleam with a shiny, glass exterior, outside these compounds are narrow, potholed roads, congested with vehicles cheek by jowl with each other.
Pedestrians have no space to walk and pavements are rarely present or have been encroached upon.
After the city’s mill lands were allowed to be sold off without leaving the mandatory two-thirds out for the city’s open spaces and housing needs, many urban planners had stressed on the need to develop stronger infrastructure.
Paying little heed to this, the authorities continued to dole out more floor space index (FSI), while the width of the roads remained the same, so did the public transport facilities and so have other essential facilities such as parking spaces and open, recreational facilities.
It is only when you step out of these complexes that you realise central Mumbai’s transition from Girangaon to a swanky, glass facades-lined central business district has not been smooth at all.
The irony of this area, however, is that despite being centrally located, the links that connect it to the rest of the city have become its bane. Take for instance the Parel-Elphinstone road bridge, which connects two of the most important, arterial roads in the region — the Senapati Bapat Marg in the west to Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Road in the east.
During peak hours, crossing over from one side to the other can take anywhere between 15 to 25 minutes, a distance of barely 800m.
Despite having six railway stations connecting it to the city, central Mumbai has serious connectivity issues as far as its public transport is concerned. Of all the six, only Dadar has fast trains halting, whereas commuters find it difficult to even alight trains at the other five stations in the evening.
Stepping out of these stations is the beginning of a nightmare for commuters because pedestrian facilities are either inadequate or completely missing.
Even the road network in this region is poorly designed, making traffic flow inefficient. One example of this is seen at Senapati Bapat Marg, where northbound traffic is diverted off Senapati Bapat Marg from Deepak Talkies, forcing it to take a bottleneck-ridden detour only to join the Senapati Bapat Marg at Parel TT junction.
Another problem for this business hub is its over-dependence on the few arterial roads that it has. Unlike other parts of the city, this region does not have a robust network or a gridlock of arterial roads. “As a result, cars come out on the streets at the same time during peak hours,” said Sonam Tanna, a public relations executive, who works at Kamala Mills, Parel.
When the state allowed the development of the mill lands without focusing on planned growth, the city lost. The war, however, continues. The area continues to see more redevelopment. Can the city afford to repeat its mistakes? Or will we, finally, see a more planned approach?