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Mumbai’s urban renaissance: An overview

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Is the spirit of Mumbai still alive? Or is it lost somewhere amidst the jam-packed roads and cramped local trains? It’s about time we stopped romanticising the lack of infrastructure and an overburdened transport system under the garb of the ‘Spirit of Mumbai’ which effortlessly whitewashes a toxic burnout culture. This is not a rant. Rather, a hopeful testimony regarding the upcoming mega-projects aimed at easing the life of an average Mumbaikar.

Mumbai has been a work in progress forever. The unprecedented growth of all the industries in the financial capital demands a much-needed infrastructure boom. A state-of-the-art network of expressways, roads, flyovers, and metros is set to complement the existing framework and shorten the commute time within Mumbai and the Metropolitan Region.

Mumbai Coastal Road Project

Wilbur Smith and Associates was commissioned in 1962 to study transportation and traffic in Mumbai. The suggestions of this study were supposed to give Mumbai horizontal growth, unlike the north-south traffic nightmare of today. It also proposed a road somewhat similar to the under-construction Mumbai Coastal Road. The grand 8-lane, 29.2 kilometres long expressway connects north and south Mumbai from Kandivali to Marine Lines respectively.

The southern stretch of which is set to be completed by the end of 2023. The project employed a range of cutting-edge technology including the largest tunnel boring machine (TBM) deployed in India- TBM Mavala, named after the valorous warriors of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj who excelled in mountain warfare. The road will reduce travel time from 2 hours to 40 minutes. About 70 hectares of reclaimed area is reserved for a green belt and recreational facilities. The project also includes public transport facilities with a dedicated lane for Bus Rapid Transit System. (BRTS)

Mumbai Metro Rail Project

A commuter puts his life on the line when travelling on Mumbai’s lifeline. An average of seven people lost their lives and six received injuries in local train accidents every day in 2022. Officials blame the increasing passenger density and failure to correspondingly increase train services, which lead to massive overcrowding. The maximum capacity of a 12-rake train is 2,160 people whereas it carries at least 5,500 passengers– two-and-half times more than its capacity during peak hours.

The Suburban Railway now needs the support of an efficient rapid transport system for effective connectivity with the extensive areas of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region. Mumbai’s developing metro rail network as a whole constitutes 14 lines covering an area of around 350 kilometres. The metro lines will crisscross the city in all directions and serve as a parallel train service. The long wait for Mumbaikars to have a safe, reliable, affordable, and environmentally sustainable rapid public transport system is nearing its end. 

Mumbai Trans Harbour Link

The Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL), a 21.8 kilometres bridge connecting Mumbai to the mainland, is India’s longest sea bridge. It is expected to cut down travel time between Navi Mumbai and South Mumbai thereby serving as an engine of economic growth. The MTHL will also aid in decongesting Mumbai and thereby reducing pollution. The MTHL is expected to be completed and opened in August 2023

Navi Mumbai International Airport

To reduce air-traffic congestion at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport, an additional international airport has been proposed through Public Private Partnership. The Navi Mumbai International Airport (NMIA) is being built in the emerging satellite town of Navi Mumbai by the City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO). This airport will be a boon to those living in the eastern suburbs who now battle the traffic jam to reach the airports located in the heart of Mumbai. It is one of the largest greenfield airports planned to handle a minimum of six crore passengers each year.

Dharavi Redevelopment Project

Dharavi is a booming business hub generating economic activity of over $1 billion annually. One of the densest slums in the Asia-Pacific region, Dharavi is also a hub for several small-scale, unorganised industries that manufacture medicines, leather, footwear, and clothes. The Dharavi Redevelopment Project is a bold show of what India is capable of when it comes to construction. The project has been in the pipeline of the Maharashtra state government for over two decades since the idea was first suggested by architect Mukesh Mehta in 1997.

The project will include the construction of free housing for all eligible slum dwellers, along with other infrastructure development. The state government wants the rehabilitation process to take place within the next seven years. The cultural image of Dharavi will undergo a tremendous shift once the redevelopment project gets underway. At the same time, it remains to be seen how the project will help expand the commercial capability of the residents. The construction work, for the slum cluster which sprawls over 240 acres and is home to about a million people, is likely to start in October 2023.

There have been several instances of criticism and protests against the various development projects. However, the improved quality of life ensured in the long run easily outweighs the contemporary concerns. Presently, Mumbai’s two parallel highways and the local train lines are overburdened causing valuable time to be wasted in commutation. Those opposing land reclamations forget that the city itself was formed by reclaiming land and joining 7 islands.

There is no place to build roads. Through land reclamation, Singapore has created space for new areas like Changi Airport and Marina Bay, and in low-lying countries like the Netherlands, around 17% of the country’s current land has been reclaimed from the sea or lakes.

The ambitious development projects are a reflection of the city’s zeal and commitment to building a better future for its residents. Mumbaikars will not only save money due to reduced fuel consumption but also enjoy clean air as a result of the decrease in environmental pollution. The impressive feats of engineering, from colossal bridges to state-of-the-art metro rail systems, are symbols of growth and development happening in the city of dreams.

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