The nation’s financial capital, cosmopolitan Mumbai, is trying to imitate world-class cities in terms of providing infrastructure as well as transport facilities. But the city lacks one basic thing — a holistic plan to achieve this. We have costly projects which are studied in isolation, and which end up helping the handful that travel only by car.
Many major cities in the world have a transport study or plan. We are attempting it now with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) ‘Mobility Plan’, which will help the authorities prioritise infrastructure projects.
It will be interesting to see whether the plan can change the set ideology of working towards car-centric projects. The 35-km coastal road, which will cost Rs12,000 crore will be the fourth consecutive car-centric project in Mumbai. More than 50 flyovers were constructed in the past 20 years. The Bandra-Worli Sealink cost us Rs1,600 crore and the Eastern Freeway was built at a cost of Rs1,600 crore, just for 17km.
Now let’s look at the projects which have successfully discouraged the use of private cars and extended the existing strong networks of public transport. There are hardly any, except for the Metro. Mumbai is a compact and dense city with scarce road space; instead of improving our bus, local train and Metro transport systems, we are moving in the wrong direction and promoting private transport.
Our footpaths are in pitiable condition, encroached with private cars. The city provides us scarce road space for free, with no levy of parking charges. This, while countries around the world have started introducing rules, like an income threshold for vehicle ownership, car bans in inner cities, and inner-city tolls.
Mumbai’s problems are going to get worse, because the number of cars in the city is growing rapidly.
Along with a transportation plan and its implementation, every infrastructure project planned in the city should be designed with an eye on long term impact, number of people benefiting, cost and funding, and priority over other projects.
(Ashok Datar is a transport expert and chairman of Mumbai Environmental Social Network)
(As told to Sanjana Bhalerao)