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Time to relook at the way we build infra projects?

Transport experts and urban planners have been repeatedly raising the issue of feasibility of some of the projects.

mumbai Updated: Feb 05, 2018 23:43 IST
Shailesh Gaikwad
Shailesh Gaikwad
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,Maharashtra,Infrastructure

Several developments related to Mumbai’s transport infrastructure have taken place in the past few days.

The most significant ones are the new railway infrastructure projects for Mumbai and the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) that were cleared in the Union budget presented by finance minister Arun Jaitley. Railway minister Piyush Goyal, a Mumbaiite, put together a few projects to increase the capacity of the suburban train network and also extend the network in the MMR under the Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP) 3 A. It will be a major step in upgrading the suburban commute.

The civic budget presented by civic chief Ajoy Mehta on Friday avoided any big announcements but it aims to give a push to infrastructure projects, especially Mumbai Coastal Road and Goregaon Mulund Link Road (GMLR).

Earlier last week, the state wildlife board cleared a proposal to conduct a study for a tunnel under the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Mumbai’s green lung that is under tremendous pressure because of encroachments from all sides.

Going by all these development, it would look like the city is getting yet another big infrastructure push. The question is: Will it really help us? Are these projects being taken up on piecemeal basis or is there a well thought-out plan behind them? Transport experts and urban planners have been repeatedly raising the issue of feasibility of some of the projects.

For instance, the BMC has planned Rs2,347 crore GMLR to connect western and central suburbs through Aarey. At the same time, Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) is planning to build a road linking Borivli and Thane through a tunnel under SGNP. Does the city really need this second road that will be built by spending a couple of thousands of crores?

The Shiv Sena, the ruling party in the BMC, is keen on building the Coastal Road at an estimated cost of Rs15,000 crore. It is touted as a solution for traffic congestion in south Mumbai as well as western suburbs as the western express highway and SV Road are under tremendous pressure. These claims are being contested by experts.

When it comes to mega infrastructure projects, often the long term utility is also considered. The rush hour traffic on any transport corridor is 2 to 2.5 lakh person per hour, say experts. Nobody can guarantee that this will increase anytime soon as the commercial activities have reached a saturation level.

Currently the traffic in the island city is heavy because south Mumbai is the biggest business hub in the city. Will it remain so in the long term?

BKC has taken away a number of commercial establishments. In less than a decade, parts of Navi Mumbai are likely to emerge as parallel commercial hubs. The state government is building Mumbai’s second international airport there and has planned a township around it. It wants to connect this area to south and south central Mumbai through the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link.

Within Mumbai, the government is building a bouquet of Metro projects including the Colaba –Seepz Metro 3. As part of its project to develop idle port land, the Mumbai Port Trust has a plan to build a transport corridor to connect central and eastern suburbs to south Mumbai.

In these circumstances, it would make sense to check feasibility of some of the planned projects. For instance, the railways did a rethink on its Rs10,000-crore Churchgate-Virar elevated corridor after they realised that the state government has taken up Metro 3 project that would run almost parallel to the same up to Andheri.

“The government should relook at what they are planning and whether these projects would be feasible. The thrust should be on public transport than something like coastal road that will promote private vehicles,” says transport expert Ashok Datar.

Maybe, the mandarins in Mantralaya should take a cue from what happened to the Rs2,500-crore Monorail project. Nobody knows if it will get any response in future or will have to be shut down.

At the end of the day, all these projects are built with taxpayers’ money.

First Published: Feb 05, 2018 23:43 IST