Essential services in Mumbai’s suburbs — which have once again emerged as the most densely populated and urbanised areas in the state — cannot meet the demands of the continuing influx from rural areas and the island city, residents from two of the city’s most urbanised suburbs and one from Thane, the most urbanised district, suggest.
The central government released urbanisation data last week, which showed that the island city’s population declined by 5.75% over 10 years, while that of the suburbs has increased by 8.01%
Provisional census data show that Malad, Kurla and Thane are most urbanised. Malad, 9.46 lakh people and Kurla, with 8.91 lakh people, together accommodate 14% of Mumbai’s population. Thane has 1.1 crore residents.
Demographic experts say people are leaving the island city because housing has become very expensive, partly because old structures are not being redeveloped fast enough. “Migration from rural areas slowed down because the cost of living and vigilance against squatting increased,” says Professor R B Bhagat, head of department, Migration and Urban Studies at the International Institute for Population Sciences in Deonar. But, the growth in population has not seen a commensurate enhancement in essential services such as water supply and health care, partly due to a lack of planning.
Data shows that suburbs lag far behind the island city in people-to-hospital bed ratio, open spaces and transport links. Residents who moved from the island city appreciate their bigger apartments in planned residential complexes in the suburbs, but complain about water supply, traffic and train travel during peak hours to the island city for work.
“Several transport projects for east-west linkages are in the pipeline and flyovers are being built,” said Naseem Khan, guardian minister for Mumbai suburban district. However, regarding lack of access to health care and open spaces, he said authorities were working on it but did not elaborate.
( Inputs from Bhavika Jain)
‘Malad has malls but Dadar has parks’
Sameer Barve, 37, lives in the lane exactly opposite InOrbit Mall, one of the most buzzing places to hang out and shop in western suburbs of Goregaon and Malad but he misses Shivaji Park almost everyday.
When Sameer and his wife Sheetal, 35, decided to move out of Shivaji Park in 2006, they chose Goregaon Link Road for its proximity to Sheetal’s office at Malad, where she works as a manager in a telecom company. However, it meant a much longer commute for Sameer, a chemical engineer, who works in Kanjurmarg. And that is only one of the many things that bother Sameer about being away from Shivaji Park, “a perfect residence in all respects.”
On one hand Shivaji Park had the iconic ground, several affordable eateries, hospitals and enviable road and rail connectivity, while Goregaon link road has Hypercity and D Mart, the sprawling super markets and malls like InOrbit, Malad, and Infinity, Andheri, complete with brand stores, food joints and multiplexes.
“Despite Malad being such a happening place I miss Shivaji Park because I hardly meet my old friends now,” says Sameer.
He drives to his office in Kanjurmarg and takes anywhere between 45 minutes to two hours depending on traffic. “The roads are bad and there are no direct buses or trains so it is much better to take the car.”
He also feels access to health care was much easier in Dadar with several hospitals — big and small — such as Hinduja and Shushrusha were easily accessible compared to expensive private health care options in Goregaon or Malad.
‘In Kurla, we get murky water’
Navin Rane, 27, and his family moved to Kurla (east) from Girgaum three months ago. Rane’s 1,100 square feet home in Nehru Nagar, a quiet lane is a complete contrast to the otherwise noisy streets of Kurla lined with small shops and buildings. Rane is one of the many who have given up their old home in south Mumbai and moved to the suburbs. “After my marriage, space became a huge constraint. We could not find a big house at an affordable price in south Mumbai,” added Rane.
While his aging parents miss his home, Rane has found it easier to adapt to the change. “The Nehru Nagar area is more peaceful, has trees surrounding it. The air quality is also better,” added Rane. It is the water supply that really bothers Rane. “Many times the water colour has been murky. We boil the water and use it,” added Rane.
Rane and his family still find themselves returning to south Mumbai to buy clothes, household items, visit doctors and meet friends.
Though the family loves the spacious interiors, they are hoping to move back to Girgaum soon.
— Zahra Gabuji
‘I miss Marine Drive the most these days’
On a lazy Saturday morning Manisha Beri, 31, a chartered accountant with a multinational bank in Malad, chats with her mother Vijaya, 70, a retired government employee as they admire the strong breeze and the view of the hills on Ghodbunder Road in contrast to their previous small house in a congested lane near Central Plaza in Girgaum. However, that is only one part of their now rather secluded life.
In 2009 Manisha moved with her mother to a 1,100 square feet flat in a gated residential complex in Thane, a few months before their Girgaum building was demolished for redevelopment.
Manisha’s hectic job and two-hour, one-way commute to Malad in buses and autos, hardly allows her to find time for herself or to appreciate the facilities the planned area provides. “I only work and sleep during the week,” says Manisha, whose brother also now lives with his family in an adjacent complex. “On weekends I rest and since everything is available in the area, I do not step out much.”
The only time Manisha really makes an effort outside of work is when the urge to be on Marine Drive gets the better of her. “I miss south Mumbai and go at least once a month to Marine Drive.” Her mother misses the old-world charm of family-like neighbours. “We stayed in a building where every family knew the other for more than 30 years,” Vijaya Beri says. “Here it is hard to make friends, especially at this age.”
However, because of unaffordable real estate costs in south Mumbai and a self-contained life in Thane, with private hospitals, shopping complexes and hotels and theatres in the vicinity, Manisha and her mother concentrate on the positives of a different suburban life.