Matunga resident Nikhil Desai is a worried man. Every time students from schools around Five Gardens walk along the DS Baretto Road in Wadala, he prays that they reach home safe and sound.
“The Monorail’s pillars have been reinforced on the footpaths, and this has taken up the whole footpath. Children are forced to walk on the road. This is particularly dangerous as vehicles speed past them,” said Desai.
Although the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation has written to the Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA), asking it to widen the footpaths, local project officials deny that such plans are in place.
Wadala isn’t a lone case. As Mumbai aims to strengthen its public transit system in the city, these are ironically cutting off pedestrian’s access to footpaths. Take the case of the ongoing work on the Metro’s Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar route. At numerous places along the way, pillars from the viaduct have their landing on pavements.
AGNI activist James John blames this on the “arrogance” of the planning body. “These projects invariably arrange for alternate traffic routes but there is no provision made for pedestrians. Every day, pedestrians along this road suffer because the MMRDA did not think it was important to save the footpaths.” Vidyadhar Date, a veteran journalist, author and an advocate for pedestrian rights, says pedestrians are suffering because of the state’s insensitivity.
“This is nothing but callousness on part of the state. Civic planning authorities are negligent in planning facilities for pedestrians. Most of the times, pedestrians and their convenience is not of paramount importance to them and therefore does not figure in their scheme of things.”
Civic authorities admit there are shortcomings in the planning process but plead helplessness. Additional municipal commissioner Aseem Gupta said, “Pillars from the two ends of the rail bridge have their landings on foothpaths. A lot of times, even their stations are located on pillars standing on our pavements. However, there is little that we can do considering they are big-ticket projects and are of such vital importance to the city.”
Despite repeatedly contacting MMRDA spokesperson Dilip Kawathkar, he refused to respond to HT’s queries.