While many localities across Mumbai are desperately awaiting redevelopment, the Vidyavihar-Ghatkopar-Vikhroli stretch is among the few areas where a lot of old structures have been torn down to be replaced by swanky high-rises and commercial complexes.
Since 2007, this stretch on the eastern suburb, which has residential complexes, retail establishments and industries, has witnessed unprecedented redevelopment.
While residents owe their improved lifestyle to such projects, redevelopment has brought its share of problems, primarily due to the lack of foresight and planning of the civic body as well as the state government.
Infrastructure development in the N-ward does not match the pace of redevelopment, and the result is massive traffic jams, insufficient parking space and encroachments by hawkers and eateries. “This area lacks infrastructure planning. Redevelopment has taken place without the groundwork to support people’s improved lifestyle,” said Natarajan Krishnamurthy, 32, a businessman who has lived in Ghatkopar since childhood. “For instance, the by-lane connecting the Eastern Express Highway to Shanti Park in Ghatkopar (East) is too narrow to handle the heavy traffic. But no initiative has been taken to widen this lane in the past five years.”
Many old residential buildings in Garodia nagar, Pant Nagar, Nathpai Nagar, Cama Lane and MG Road have been replaced with swanky high-rises, but the roads in these areas have not been widened. The result is traffic bottlenecks that can take hours to clear.
“The civic body has not implemented redevelopment norms for roads. If there is a 20-floor tower, but its adjacent road remains narrow, there will obviously be traffic and parking issues,” said Ketan Karani, 36, a resident of Shanti Park in Ghatkopar (East).
The area is so congested that travelling a short distance of 1.6km within Ghatkopar (East) can take up to 40 to 45minutes during peak hours, complain locals. Ghatkopar (west) is no better. On LBS Marg, a five-minute drive can take as long as 30 minutes.
“If a flyover is constructed on this route, it will dramatically reduce travelling time, but nobody is doing anything. Traffic flows in from Asalpha Village, Saki Naka, Chembur and Sion and meets here,” said Hasmukh Kenia, 57, a businessman who has lived in Ghatkopar from 1972.
While roads are jammed due to poor infrastructure development, hawkers encroach on the pavements and roadsides, blocking traffic and adding to the mess. One such road is MG Road in Ghatkopar (west), which connects LBS Marg to the east-west bridge.
“The hawkers on MG Road take up the pavement and half the road. There’s no space for pedestrians to walk or vehicles to move. We have complained several times, but there’s been no change,” said MG Road resident Sunil Maitre, 45.
The ward corporator admits the area is in desperate need of better infrastructure. “Ghatkopar has traffic woes, especially on LBS Marg, which is the biggest connectivity from Sion to Mulund. It needs to be widened,” said Bhalchandra Shirsat, corporator from Garodia Nagar. “It’s due to the ongoing Vidyavihar railway-over-bridge and metro works that there’s more traffic on the east-west bridge. Once these projects are complete, it will be okay.”
A civic official from the N-ward’s building proposals department refused to accept that the civic body is accountable for the traffic woes in the ward. “Building constructions are approved on basis of the required parking space mentioned in the Development Control (DC) rules. Similarly, road widening is carried out as per the development plan.” Officials claim that they conduct drives to remove hawkers daily, but the hawkers return. “I am part of the anti-encroachment drives conducted every evening, but the hawkers return in no time,” said Pramod Khedkar, ward officer, N-ward.
On Saturday: K-west ward