Will the state’s ambitious, Rs11,000-crore coastal road project to connect Nairman Point and Kandivli make your daily commute easier? Will it decongest roads, as promised? And should it be used to promote mass transport? That was the focus of a panel discussion titled Urban Lifelines, organised on Thursday as part of the Hindustan Times Kala Ghoda Arts Festival.
“The development of the city is driven by the builder lobby and thus it is planned according to the interests of the real-estate market,” said urban planner Shirish Patel, prompting nods and murmurs of agreement from the audience.
What is truly needed is closer communication with local residents, and coordination between government agencies, to ensure that the projects proposed suit the needs of the city’s people — and to ensure that they can then be implemented with the least disruption to everyday life.
Discussing the proposed coastal road, which will sweep from Nariman Point to Kandivli, architect PK Das — the man who helped create the city’s Bandstand, Carter Road and Juhu promenades — said: “The coastal project must be opened up for public discussion and the state should start with the work only after taking inputs from citizens. Only then can a comprehensive plan be developed.”
Supporting the involvement of citizen groups in the planning of the city, Shailesh Gaikwad, senior associate editor at Hindustan Times, Mumbai, added: “Political stability and coordination between different implementing agencies is very important for completion of such projects.”
Other speakers discussed the need to change the mindset that increasing the number of roads will lead to smoother traffic movement.
“The solution is not more roads. As per our survey, only 7% of the population uses a car daily in the city, thus we are building a coastal road only for that 7%, with no consideration for the 70% of citizens who use rail and bus networks daily. We need to focus instead on strengthening the existing transit system and promoting public transport,” said Madhav Pai, director of EMBARQ, an institute that works to promote sustainable urban transport solutions.
“Streamlining rail and bus transport and equitably distributing business hubs across the city and not concentrating them in south Mumbai will help in
de-congesting road networks and will also be cost efficient,” added transport expert Ashok Datar.
“The session was very insightful,” said Swati Shinde, an urban and environmental consultant in the audience.
“One reads about these big projects but hardly understands their impact on the citizens.”
Added architecture student Rahul Joshi: “This session at least opened up the complex coastal road project for discussion and looked into examining alternatives and its impact on citizens.”