Even as New Delhi is set to implement one of the most drastic measures the country has seen to beat traffic congestion and resultant pollution, a similar, but less drastic, measure aimed at decongesting Mumbai has been gathering dust in Mantralaya for almost a year.
A year ago, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis stayed a policy to hike parking charges to dissuade private vehicle users, but the government is yet to take a decision on it.
The policy, approved by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), hiked the parking charges by as much as 200%, from the existing Rs20-Rs60 in certain congested areas of the city, so private vehicle users opt for public transport.
It also introduced the concept of night residential permits, where residents would have to pay to park on the streets outside their homes. However, protests by some residents from the island city, led by BJP MLA Raj Purohit, led to a stay on the policy by Fadnavis.
The residents had argued the system of night permits would be unfair on those who don’t have parking spaces inside their buildings, many of which are old structures. On an average, Mumbai adds about 150 cars a day, according to government figures. The increase brings along a rise in traffic congestion and also air pollution. Hindustan Times had earlier reported how a study by the Mumbai Environmental Social Network (MESN) showed how slow driving and traffic congestion, caused because of indiscriminate parking, led to a rise in the particulate matter by up to 17 times the safety limit and carbon monoxide to six times the limit.
To buttress its point, the study had selected busy roads of two kinds -- with indiscriminate parking and the one where parking wasn’t allowed. While the CO emission at Dr Annie Besant Road with no parking was well within the 3.5 parts per million limit, it was as high as 18ppm on a busy road with irregular parking such as the NC Kelkar Marg.
A senior bureaucrat said, “There is little doubt that such a strict and bold policy is needed in Mumbai. If we don’t bring it in, we will end up having a gridlock lasting many days like many cities in the world have.”
Dr Ram Barot, the civic improvements committee chief when the policy was approved, said the policy should be implemented soon. “Mumbai doesn’t need something as radical as the odd-even policy. The parking policy, if implemented, will be a big disincentive for many who today don’t think twice before taking their cars out.”
Nitin Kareer, principal secretary, urban development department, said, “We are yet to take a call. We had asked the BMC for some information, which we have received. We will soon take a final decision on this.”