From a sleepy rural notified council area of Thane district on the outskirts of Mumbai’s far-flung western suburbs to a bustling municipal corporation in the last decade, Mira Road-Bhayander is a classic example of unplanned urbanisation.
Naturally, the civic infrastructure of the twin townships is struggling to cope with the burgeoning population and the residue of urbanisation — garbage, mounds of construction debris, bad roads, poor drainage, congestion and inadequate public transport.
The infrastructure, meant for less than five lakh people, is handling the needs of over 10 lakh. As a result, garbage lines every lane and people have to wade through a sea of hawkers to get to the railway station.
The twin townships are reeling under an acute water shortage, thanks to the tanker mafia run by goons-turned-politicians. It took the water riots of the late 1990s for the civic body to regularise supply of around 50 million litres a day. But, that coincided with a doubling of the population, bringing the townships back to square one. Today, many areas receive only eight to 10 minutes of water supply every two to three days.
It is said that in Mira-Bhayander, water supply depends on how influential your builder is.
Last month, Hindustan Times conducted a survey of over 10,000 Mumbaiites and met with citizen groups across the city to understand their micro-level concerns. Mira-Bhayander’s problems figured prominently in those discussions.
“It is not that the civic body lacks finances. On the contrary, it gets sufficient money through taxes and urban renewal schemes. It is planning and honest implementation that is missing,” said M.V. Ruparelia, a right to information activist from Mira Road whose persistent efforts have brought about considerable improvement in the locality’s public transport system.
Ruparelia said that on paper the civic body spends a considerable amount on constructing roads.
“But no one checks the quality of construction. As a result, the roads crack as soon as the construction ends,” he said.
He said the roads are a hazard to pedestrians and vehicles alike. While debris from construction sites is piled up along the roads, falling debris from dumpers makes roads slippery and causes frequent accidents. “Topping it all is the non-cooperation of authorities to Right To Information (RTI) queries,” he said.
Municipal Commissioner Shivmurty Naik, sitting in his spacious air-conditioned chamber, presented a different picture. “Our roads are very good. As far as garbage disposal is concerned, we have started a plant at Uttan. In a few days, the problem will be solved. We have issued notices to builders to clear debris or face the consequences,” he stated.
The long-standing demand of residents to increase train services to bring respite from the crowds during peak hours has found little response. “The most pressing need, however, remains water supply,” said Harshad Joshi, a real estate broker at Mira Road.