Why walking on Mumbai’s streets is a nightmare
Last month, a survey by the Centre listed Mumbai among the top three most liveable cities in India. As per Ease of Living Index report released on August 13 by Union housing and urban affairs ministry — Pune, Navi Mumbai and Greater Mumbai in Maharashtra are the three most liveable cities in India.
The cities were measured on four parameters: governance, social, physical and economic infrastructure. Ranking Mumbai as the third most liveable city evoked mixed reactions, especially on the social media with people pointing out the problems in the city—from traffic congestion and pollution to exorbitant realty prices. While there could be mixed reactions on most of these issues what everybody will agree over is one crucial aspect: Mumbai is definitely not a city for pedestrians.
Whether it is your walk from your house to the railway station or to the market or the school of your children or just a short distance stroll to nearest garden, walking in this city is simply a nightmare.
Barring a few areas in the city, Mumbai does not have footpaths or pavements to walk. It is mostly the island city (which was largely built during the British era) that has footpaths though they are not in good shape everywhere. If you take areas such as Nariman Point or Colaba, you will find the pavements that are maintained well. The situation, however, is pathetic when it comes to the suburbs. The richest municipal corporation in India has failed miserably to build and maintain the footpaths in most of the suburbs of Mumbai. Either they do not exist or even if they do exist, they are poorly maintained or encroached by hawkers or squatters.
At several places the footpaths are badly planned and built that make it impossible for the people to walk. The civic officials and other authorities are either ignoring it deliberately or just helpless in preventing encroachment on pavements. It is not just harrowing but risky for senior citizens and children to walk in several parts of the city. Since there are no footpaths or there are encroachments, they are forced to walk on roads. With one lane on both sides of the road occupied by cars and other vehicles parked illegally, they end up walking in almost middle of the road risking their limbs and lives. Once a top civic official himself admitted that he fears sending his parents out for a walk.
It is not just walking along the roads, the areas around the suburban railway stations have similar problem. There is rarely any station in Mumbai where commuters can enter/exit without any hassles. They have to avoid the autos, taxis, bikes, hawkers and peddlers. Of course, that is before they deal with the crowds on the platforms and in the trains.
The worst part of the entire issue is that those who are running or ruling the city do not think that providing well-maintained walking space for the citizens an important issue.
Uddhav Thackeray led Shiv Sena has been ruling the civic body for past two decades but neither him nor his party’s leaders thought about adopting any time-bound programme to ensure that the city is a better walkable place in India.
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis’ BJP can’t shirk the responsibility because it was ruling the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) in alliance with the Sena for two decades. While Fadnavis is being appreciated for the push he is giving to rebuilding Mumbai’s transport infrastructure, his government has not identified this basic problem.
The Congress is equally responsible for the mess in our city. Successive Congress governments were more interested in floor space index thane walking space for the citizens.
The civic body has a policy to make the city pedestrian friendly but it has remained on paper.
Simple but important issues such as well-maintained footpaths or open spaces are not on the agenda of the political parties because citizens don’t insist on the same. When was the last time you quizzed the candidates —who come to your house or building for votes —over providing and maintaining these amenities?