Mangesh Devlekar, 41, an executive in a private firm, drives from his house in Thane to his office in Powai every day. The journey, which should ideally take 35 minutes, takes him an hour-and-a-half thanks to the traffic congestion along the way. “The traffic on the way to Powai is getting worse by the day. Authorities need to find a solution to manage traffic better,” said Devlekar.
Jinal Shah, who works for a BPO company at Vikhroli, has a similar complaint. She takes at least two hours to travel from her house in Borivli to her office. “The problem originates at LBS Road, where most of the traffic gets held up,” said Shah.
Powai, which remains one of the best-planned districts in the city, is isolated from the rest of the city. In neighbouring Vikhroli, the same problem is acute. Till 20 years ago, Lal Bahadur Shashtri (LBS) Marg was dotted with industries and warehouses. Declining industrial production gave way to smaller commercial complexes. The road now finds itself in the throes of another transformation — where even these complexes and estates are giving way to swanky high-rises that house the servicing industry.
Even those using public transport are not spared of the ordeal. Rahul Karmakar lives in plush Charni Road in South Mumbai and works in a posh building in Powai’s Hiranandani area, the city’s newest planned township. That, unfortunately, is not something Karmarkar feels good about because he spends no less than four hours each day travelling. “It takes a long time to get to Powai by train. It takes at least an hour from Andheri station and half-an-hour from Vikhroli or Kanjurmarg stations,” he said.
From the stretch that begins from Gandhi Nagar junction all the way up to Parksite depot in Vikhroli (West), the swanky buildings now house IT parks and some of the biggest multinational firms.
A drive down the road, however, proves the area lying outside these plush compounds has not been able to keep pace with the development inside them. While the main road is in fairly good shape, the inside roads have potholes, making driving a terrible experience. The footpaths are littered with broken paver blocks, rendering them almost redundant for pedestrian use.
In many ways, both Powai — planned in 1987 as a business hub-cum-world-class residential complex — and Vikhroli are marred by similar issues such as the lack of supporting infrastructure.
According to Niranjan Hiranandani, managing director, Hiranandani Group, which planned and constructed the Powai complex, the government is to be blamed for not giving adequate priority to infrastructure.
“It is unfortunate that Mumbai is always the last place for good infrastructure,” said Hirandani. “It is not that the railways stations are far away. It is just that the infrastructure is inadequate, which is increasing travel time,” he added, agreeing that inefficient connectivity to Powai was its planners’ greatest failing. But the worst is yet to come. Many fear the two hubs will continue to see more such unplanned development, increasing the number of people who travel to these areas for work.