MumbaiWith an aim to improve connectivity between Mumbai and its surrounding areas, which form the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), the state government has chalked out grand plans to develop transport infrastructure and create new growth centres. Work on these projects, however, is moving at a snail’s pace.New growth hubsThe growth centres, planned by the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), have been proposed to generate employment in the MMR and to reduce burden on Mumbai and its infrastructure. In 2015, the regional planning authority announced a growth centre at Kalyan, which would create employment for local residents, who are currently dependent on neighbouring Mumbai for trade and business. Although there is no definite deadline for the growth centre to come up, senior MMRDA officials said it will take a few more years for the first signs of “growth” to be seen. The authority has allocated Rs1,000 crore for its development.An MMRDA official said that in the first phase, a 330-hectare area will be developed out of the total 1,000 hectares. It will help spur development in Dombivli and Ambernath. Apart from the growth centre, MMRDA has also planned a logistics hub in Bhiwandi. “In all 27 villages around Kalyan and Ambernath are set to witness development. We have initiated the process to appoint a consultant to develop a detailed project report,” a senior MMRDA planner said.According to Pravin Darade, additional metropolitan commissioner, MMRDA, development of MMR is the key to reducing burden on Mumbai. Darade said over the years, the MMRDA has conducted various studies to plan infrastructure development in the metropolitan region. “People have to be given alternatives to Mumbai… that is why we have planned growth centres so people do not have to travel from far-flung suburbs for work. The Kalyan growth centre is an example of that.”Commute made easyThe MMRDA has planned many big-ticket infrastructure projects – including the Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link (MTHL), Virar-Alibaug Multimodal Corridor and Metro corridors – to improve connectivity between Mumbai and MMR. While most of these projects have been on the drawing board for more than a decade, some are finally seeing the light of day.The MTHL was first proposed in the 1980s, but it did not take off until MMRDA was entrusted the task by the state government. The 22-km sea link will connect Mumbai and the mainland, providing faster access to Navi Mumbai and Raigad. Larsen and Toubro (L&T) in partnership with IHI Corporation of Japan will construct a major section of the bridge, while a section of the project will be constructed by a consortium of Daewoo and Tata Projects. Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is funding 80% of the project, which is estimated to cost Rs17,843 crore.The MMRDA has planned Metro routes in MMR, including the Kalyan-Thane-Bhiwandi (Metro 5) corridor. “The railway network has saturated and can’t take any more burden,” said Darade. “That is why we have planned Metro corridors in conjunction with our regional plan. Apart from Metro 5, we have planned a Metro corridor between Dahisar and Mira-Bhayandar, which is closer to Mumbai and where many commuters travel. One metro line (Wadala-Ghatkopar-Thane-Kasarvadavali Metro 4) will cover the entire Ghodbunder Road. For improving road connectivity, there is MTHL, the multi-modal corridor and a sea link between Bhayandar and Vasai.”No integrated planningUrban planners and transport experts, however, said the pace of development in MMR has been slow owing to involvement of multiple agencies. Ashok Datar, a transport expert, said there is no “integrated view” when authorities plan. There is no coordination between the agency that is building the Metro rail projects and the Railways, he said. “Today, there are no metros, five-six years down the line, we will have too many Metros but it will be without proper connectivity and integration. There is too much compartmentalisation and there is a lot of repetitive planning,” said Datar.He said connectivity between Mumbai and MMR is crucial and the need of the hour, but the government is opting for “expensive” modes of transport. “I am not saying we do not need Metros, but do we need 10 Metro lines. Instead of Metros, where projected ridership numbers seem exaggerated, the bus and railway networks should be expanded. They would require lesser investment than Metro projects,” said Datar, adding that along with transport infrastructure, the state government should focus on affordable housing along the growth centres. Sulakshana Mahajan, an urban planner, said instead of creating new growth centres, the state should reinvigorate the existing MIDC areas. “Acquiring land has always been an issue for the development of areas. After the development of Navi Mumbai, there was an idea to develop other areas along similar lines, but the government faced land acquisition issues. They should develop MIDC areas that are not active. There is already some infrastructure there. The government is fooling people with grand plans, but not employing practical solutions,” Mahajan said.