Skywalks planned by Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) were supposed to be a panacea for harried pedestrians.
The idea was to take the crush off the roads in station areas and create uninterrupted, four-metre-wide elevated platforms for a comfortable walking experience to bus stops, taxi stands, shopping areas, etc.
MMRDA was so enthused by the idea, it planned to have in place 57 skywalks by May 2010, budgeting Rs 1,200 crore for the project under the Station Area Traffic Improvement Scheme. The scheme aims to ensure efficient dispersal of commuters from station areas.
But poor planning, frequent delays, congestion and construction accidents bred resentment against the skywalks. Some citizens said the locations were poorly chosen and would only add to the chaos, while shopkeepers feared that they would lose their clientele — pedestrians, who would no longer walk on the roads where their shops were located.
As a result, MMRDA was forced to drop skywalks at Masjid, Naigaon, Sandhurst Road, Mulund (East), Dadar (East), Kurla (West) and Mahim (West).
“Why spend taxpayer money on skywalks over roads that [don’t require them]? It is impractical and will create congestion,” said Federation of Retail Traders Welfare Association’s Viren Shah, who filed a public interest litigation against skywalks planned at Grant Road and Dadar (East).
Countered Metropolitan Commissioner Ratnakar Gaikwad: “A project that will benefit lakhs cannot be shelved just because it affects a few shopkeepers.”
However, some citizens feel not all skywalks are necessary.
“We don’t require a skywalk near Wadala station because the pedestrian traffic is not heavy and the pavements are wide enough,” said Anand Castallino, a resident of Wadala, where a skywalk will stretch from the station to St Joseph Church.
MMRDA officials claimed that all skywalks were initiated only after consultations with local representatives and citizens’ groups.
“We are willing to consider realignment of skywalks if people come to us with complaints,” said MMRDA Additional Chief Engineer A.K. Pahal.