Points made during deposition on Coast Road Project in Mumbai

Independent Peoples Tribunal for Environment organised a Public Hearing on Mumbai Coast Road. The public notice for the same is at the end of my deposition.

Below are the points I submitted in my written deposition. I made a separate set of points in my spoken deposition, which is found in this presentation.

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Deposition before Commissioners by Rishi Aggarwal
Friday, 9th October, 2015
Mumbai
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I would like to place the following points on record for the consideration of the Commissioners with regards to my objection to the coastal road project proposed by the MCGM and supported by the state and national governments. The project in my opinion is symptomatic of bad governance and my points below argue against the project on governance grounds.

I am an environmental and civic issues activist for the past 15 years and have been closely involved with impacting numerous issues which would lead to a better quality of life in Mumbai. I take keen interest and involve myself on a continuous basis with aspects related to the good governance of Mumbai. I have been opposing the coast road since early 2011 when it was first proposed and have been expressed my views at numerous governmental and public forums till now.

I am attaching two different letters sent by me regarding the same and also a petition which I started in 2013 against the project. Some key points are below

Points for deposition

1. It pains me that a few politicians have chosen in their wisdom to call the coast road project as one of national importance. The lifeline of Mumbai, the suburban railway network carries 8 million people daily, it is a global marvel. Almost ten people lose their lives daily on this network. I would imagine that a project of national importance would be to find a solution to put a complete stop to these deaths. This would confirm with the tenets of good governance. The coastal road project will make absolutely no difference to the conditions on the suburban system or to saving the lives of those who die on it every day.

As per estimates the coastal road would have a capacity of transporting a maximum of 300,000 people every day (with a lot of doubt) as compared to the 8 million on the suburban system. The coastal road project has been projected to cost Rs. 13,000 crore in 2015 costs. A reasonable level of improvements in various aspects of the suburban system would cost less than Rs. 1000 crores from what I gather through various readings in the papers and official reports.

So it is a situation where there is enormous enthusiasm in the government to spend Rs. 13000 crores on transporting 300,000 people daily but almost zero enthusiasm in spending Rs. 1000 crores on improving a system which is transporting 8 million people daily. How can this be justified on a good governance parameter? Would not a government interested in delivering good governance have a balanced approach?

2. The National Urban Transport Policy 2006 by the Government of India explicitly states that the focus and priority of transport policies and investments in Indian cities should be to move people not cars. For a decade and more we have only seen a violation of that policy in Mumbai. Having received no resistance MCGM became brazen and has leapfrogged but not in the way the NUTP would expect.

3. The land use and mobility patter in Mumbai has undergone a drastic change in the past three decades. A large number of people who work in Greater Mumbai need not be staying within. These are people staying with other municipal corporations within the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR). Mobility, residence and work patterns increasingly have an inter-regional pattern and our transport planning has not kept pace with the requirements. Multi-modal integration is still not convenient in the region. For these purposes development of functional Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority (UMTA) has been suggested for Mumbai for very long. Robust institutions as we know are the fundamental tenet of good governance.

Again the government has shown abysmal commitment to establish an UMTA for MMR. Enthusiasm for the coast road by releasing full page advertisements, carpeting the city skyline with self-congratulatory messages on hoardings has been there for all to see. The same politicians and administration shows a zero concern for addressing the day to day mobility challenges faced by millions in the region.

4. The coastal road proponent – the MCGM – is offering the coastal road project as a solution to the traffic congestion being faced in Mumbai. A city the size of Mumbai and with intentions of becoming world class does not see a functional and well equipped transport and traffic planning cell within itself. It is unimaginable a megapolis of this size in the developed world to not have a well functioning traffic and transport planning cell in its local self government.

The coastal road report alludes to the presence of similar roads in developed countries and uses them to build a case for the coastal road. But what about a traffic cell, which is a fundamental requirement if you want to handle traffic congestion? Why no interest in having a traffic cell? All of these world class cities have world class traffic monitoring departments staffed with the best trained staff and with budgets and facilities to match. There is an unmistaken sincerity in the way some of these global cities are governed, which is woefully missing from the governance of Mumbai.

Is the coast road a case of having cake when we do not even have bread?

End of deposition

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Public Notice about the Public Hearing

INDEPENDENT PEOPLE’S TRIBUNAL ON ENVIRONMENT
Public Hearing on Mumbai Coast Road

Organiser: Human Rights Law Network, Mumbai

Date: Friday, 9 October 2015.

Registration: 9.30 am; Tribunal hearings commence: 10am

Venue: St Paul’s Institute of Communication Education (SPICE)

The Independent People’s Tribunal on Environment aims to conduct fair and credible investigations focusing on issues concerning human rights and environmental justice and give voice to the struggles of grassroots organizations and affected communities.

We are setting up a Public Hearing to deliberate the feasibility of the proposed highway on the Rs 12,000 crore, 35-km long Coast Road on the western sea front of Mumbai that will connect Kandivali to Nariman Point on Friday October 9, from 10 AM to 6 PM.

At the Public hearing persons from various backgrounds ranging from the fishing communities, architects, town planners, governance, environmentalists and experts will be deposing on the effects of the coast road on the environment, fishing communities and on the financial viability of the project.

Justice (Retd.) Hosbet Suresh, former Bombay High Court Judge; D.M. Sukthankar and Jamsheed Kanga (former Municipal Commissioners); D.T. Joseph (former Urban Development Secretary); B.C. Khatua, Director of the Mumbai Transformation Support Unit (MTSU, a parastatal body); Gerson da Cunha, Action for Governance & Networking in India (AGNI); Shirish Patel, civil engineer and one of the three proponents of Navi Mumbai; Shabana Azmi, actor and activist; Prof V. Subramanyan, former IIT-Mumbai geologist; Sunil Shanbag, theatre director; Rambhau Patil, President, Maharashtra Machhimar Kruti Samiti; Dr Rakesh Kumar, Chief Scientist, in charge of National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) in Mumbai; Ajit Ranade, economist, Nikhil Wagle, journalist, Major General S. C. N. Jattar, President, Nagrik Chetna Manch and Meenakshi Menon, media and communications expert and founder of Vanashakti NGO, are Commissioners.

Address: Third Floor, St Paul’s Institute of Communication Education (SPICE), TPS III, Near Tawa Restaurant, Opp. Duruelo Convent High School, Road Number 24, Bandra (West), Mumbai – 400050
Phone:022 2643 5709

The event is open to the public, who can also send written submissions to the Commissioners during the day’s proceedings.

We look forward to full coverage by the print and electronic media.
A PRESS CONFERENCE WILL BE HELD AT 1.30PM ACROSS THE HALL ON THE 3RD FLOOR
Anne Thomas Panicker,
Human Rights Law Network (HRLN),
First Floor, Jalaram Krupa, Janmabhoomi Marg, Fort, Mumbai – 400001
Tel: +91-22-2282 0109/2282 0192; 98924 61119 Email: mumbai@hrln.org

Being positive about Smart Cities – look what I stumbled upon

There has been much ridicule about the Smart Cities concept in the urban community – the group of people who have been in involved with the many aspects of cities for years. While I would like to heed the suggestions and advice that we should give the government a fair chance but there clearly is an onus on the government side to also demonstrate by action and inspire confidence beyond the popular rhetoric with which it engages the masses and those who are too weak to bother about probing the truth and want to just feel good and ‘positive’.

I have been working on my own self also to not always be critical and work within existing systems etc. so I will be less critical of what I saw but try put it down matter of fact.

Whatever be the pardon for slow progress or no progress I really do not know what to make of what I witnessed today on the Ministry of Urban Development Website. Two days ago there was an announcement about the Cabinet approving the 100 Smart Cities Project of the PM – PM Narendra Modi’s pet 100 Smart Cities project gets Cabinet’s approval

I decided to go to the website of the MOUD to check if there was any circular to that effect. I found nothing in a quick glance on the ticker and so moved immediately to click on the Smart Cities tab and through some other clicks reached on the forums section where I had the misfortune to see what I have captured in the screen shot below (absolutely fresh post).
There couldn’t be anything more banal I felt and that too on one of the most important websites of a country which wants to be a super power. Visiting the equivalent websites in any of the countries that the PM is visiting is a joy and a learning experience and immediately provides solid support to those countries global power perception. The visits of their head of state then compliments rather than seem hollow.

Smart Cities - Feeding of citizens 30.04.2015

The mention of pork and ham and beef caught my eyes additionally. I thought beef would have been censored from such a post?

What a gem this other post is

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I looked at the answers section to see if there were any responses (even manufactured) but none. Absolute silence. A graveyard would have more life than this forum. Considering this has been one of the strongest buzzwords of the new government one would have thought there would be more action here.

Looking at the index on the left of the parent MOUD website another tab caught by attention CPHEEO. I decided to check what such a long abbreviation would hold. More surprises to come.

A click opened into another website and the look itself gave away that this section was frozen in time and there should be no reason to be disappointed. Basically there was no management of the website since 2005. The earliest post I could locate was from 2000. Central Public Health & Environmental Engineering Organisation to me should be an extremely important body, since by its very name it has an important contribution to make to public health.

I clicked on the Technical Reports section and this opened up

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Clicking on the Technology Advisory Group on Solid Waste Management brought me to this 266 page document (from 2005) with the fascinating cover. Swacch Bharat Abhiyan by another name (only a decade before). The report can be viewed here http://cpheeo.nic.in/tech-report/tag_swm.pdf

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I then clicked on the tab CPHEEO Manuals and opened into this page.

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Absolutely fascinating again. I am capturing two paragraphs from the preface below. Committees, meetings, round tables, reports are something we have mastered as a country.

2015-05-01_1057042015-05-01_105804

The CPHEEO website is a wealth of archival information from the past giving an insight into what India was thinking and doing in 2000-05 and should absolutely be maintained for posterity. In fact when I look at the Smart Cities website http://indiansmartcities.in/Site/index.aspx it does not inspire confidence n comparison.

To the urban community the subject itself is important not the compulsions of the political dispensation to show themselves as the whole and soul of the matter and chest thumping. The institution of MoUD is important and from that perspective there need to be improvements in simple measures like having better discussion forums. I cant get over the banal post on the Smart Cities website which I have captured above.

I am sending this blog post to the person indicated in the Contact section captured in screen below and will await his reply and update on this post accordingly.

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I can only conclude that there is absolutely no dedicated group within India’s nodal urban development body to maintain the website for such an important issue facing the country. Since the coming over of the new government nobody has bothered within the political setup also to go and check and improve on this. Nor have they faced any strong criticism over this from the community and the aam aadmi anyways never visits sites like these. Altogether about a 1000 people in the size of India must be visiting a site like this. And this is why I am never impressed with the PMs visits abroad. Foreign Policy and India’s perception in the global community is shaped more by the many serious trade people from the world who visit Indian government websites like these than the speeches its PM makes in trade fairs.

Separately speaking it is by now a regular comment in any forum on any issue facing the country that we are facing a dire human resource crisis in every field, from medical to education and urban issues. The irony of demographic dividend and such a crisis juxtaposed next to each other is a matter of deep concern with clear insight into the troubles we can face ahead.

Work Area Management 1

I have been talking on the need for a Work Area Management policy for Mumbai/MMR for very long and this is my first or so blog post. The government needs to look into the enormous inconvenience faced by people during civil works. Every year has some new requirement, utilities have to be laid, roads have to be repaired or remade. Dust, labour standards, noise, materials management are the four key components and every civic contract (using tax payers money) should abide by policy guidelines.

Two weeks back I raised alarm over the shocking levels of dust from the Marine Drive resurfacing and captured it in a video here, sent a letter and the issue was covered in a newspaper article as well. The video link is here

Marine Drive ToI article Marine Drive dust letter MCGM

The experience captured in pics below is from today. The whole Horniman Circle is being relaid, paver blocks being scooped out and asphalt coming in place. Pictures are below.

Following stands out

1. The existing paver block surface is/was exceptionally good. The case for asaphalt is valid but then paver block surfaces, which are laid out well (and have good ride quality) should be replaced only when the quality starts wearing out. There are hundreds of junctions which are in a bad condition in the city and priority suggests that they should be attended to first.

2. The high level of traffic chaos is evident. The photos do not capture the incessant honking by the vehicles. This leads to point 4.

3. There are high dust levels on the road which is then blown up due to cars and pedestrians entering local establishments as well.

4. The whole work can clearly be carried out in the night since this is a purely commercial area with no residential population which would face disturbance. Work should be carried out in phases and minimal work during day time. The Additional Municipal Commissioner in charge of roads has in one of the news articles remarked that “….constructing or improving roads in Mumbai is like performing a heart surgery on a man who is refusing to even lie down.” There are enough locations where the complete work can be completed between 11pm- 7am. The processes and technology in use currently is clearly outdated and from an altogether different era.

Below is the chaos left over from the Reliance JIO optic fibre work across the city. Every road and by lane has this kind of a scene. I lodged a complaint on 1916 10 days bak but only got a complaint number and no redressal.

WP_20150401_005 WP_20150401_007 WP_20150401_001 WP_20150401_002 WP_20150401_003 WP_20150401_004

Below is an electricity cable being laid at 9:30 am at junction of S V Road and Amboli i Andheri (W). The work took up almost one lane. Being peak hour it lead to traffic pile up on all sides. Again should be done at night or between 6-8 am.

BEST Amboli-SV Road 2 BEST Amboli-SV Road

Coast Road diary

18.01.2015

Today I spent time trying to understand what will be the capacity to transport of the coast road project.The 128 odd km train network transports 7 million people everyday. 4000 BEST buses running on whatever number of route kms transport 4 million people. Similarly the 36km coast road, how many people will it transport?

For example if the project is 36 kms long and has four lanes and if each lane is 3.5 meters wide then we have a conveyor belt whose total area will be

For one kilometer

1000 meters into 14 meters = 14000 sq.mtrs.

For 36kms

14000 x 36kms = 504000 sq mtrs.

Now if each car(to begin with only cars) is occupying 25 sq. mtrs of space then we can have 504000/25 = 20160 cars on this conveyor belt – two lanes are for south and two for north.

Now if these lanes are moving at a consistent speed of 50kmph then how many vehicles pass through in an hour? How many people (depending on vehicle type, single person driving a car or a bus full of people) would be transported in an hour? How many in a day.

I checked the coast road report and realised that the dimensions of the road are much more

Widths of coast road

We will see a total road width of 36ms so the above calculation changes to

1000 x 36 = 36000 sq. mtrs.

For 36 kms

36000 x 36 = 1296000 sq mtrs area

And 1296000/25 = 51840 cars

Subsequently I decided to check up on google and found this useful document – technical paper from Transport for London on the same subject. Though the document has not given the answer it has all the correct formulae and principles to be followed. Now hopefully I will be able to with the assistance of more trained people be able to ascertain how many people will be able to flow in the peak directions on the coast road.

My concern is that as per the coast road they are providing 18 meters of road in each direction which is 60 feet wide. I do not see any road along the west coast which is 60 feet wide – one side? Everybody moving on the coast road has to join the mainland sometime and when four lanes converge into less than two lanes like in Bandra and Juhu and Andheri then will that not lead to traffic backing up on the coast road? Leading to traffic jams transferring from the internal city roads to the coast road?

Inputs to BMC Solid Waste Management five year vision plan – Swacch Mumbai

In November 2014 The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai – MCGM or also BMC – invited citizens who have been involved with the solid waste management issue to contribute to a five year vision plan that they are developing to address Mumbai’s waste management. The following message was received in my inbox.

Sir,
In response to Hon. Prime Minister of India’s call for “Swachcha Bharat” at the launch of this ambitious nation-wide programme on 2nd October, 2014, MCGM intends to prepare a comprehensive five year action plan about cleanliness and sanitation for the entire city of Mumbai under “Swaccha Mumbai Abhiyaan”. 
In view of the same, suggestions are requested from different stakeholders. We are aware that your organization plays an important role in tackling various issues related to urban solid waste management and is actively working in your field of expertise.
We would welcome if your organization could share its expertise in form of views/suggestions/recommendations for developing a vision document for Clean Mumbai. We will take into consideration your valuable inputs/suggestions and draft an action plan to achieve total cleanliness in the city by 2019.

Regards,

Office of Chief Engineer (Solid Waste Management)
89, Love Grove Complex,
Dr. Annie Besant Road,
Worli- 400018
In response I put in the email copied below in italics with this attachment MCGM Budget for decentralised SWM. The sheet in the PDF document is work in progress but my reading is that for Rs, 30 crores such a setup can work very well and the BMC should absolutely invest in such an initiative. Like I have been continuously saying that there is no rocket science at all in waste management. One of the biggest components is training, education, awareness and enforcement all of which is human resource intensive.
BMC is wasting crores of public money on corrupt transportation contracts which are meant for siphoning of public money and create the problem of garbage dumps but is not willing to spend on hand holding and training of people. Every European and North American country has spent enormously on capacity building to achieve the great cleanliness standards that they have.  If you still haven’t seen the Satyamev Jayate episode please do here for some more insight.

Dear Sir/Madam,

Thank you for providing the opportunity to contribute to the process of developing a vision document for Clean Mumbai. I apologise for the delay since I was very busy. I have following three specific suggestions which the BMC should consider for implementation.

1) Create budget to hire dedicated human resource for supporting segregation
As a country we are acutely aware of the need to reduce the amount of waste that goes to dumping grounds and to take all necessary measures to achieve the same. The issue has been taken cognizance of adequately by various statutory institutions of the country – the Supreme Court, Parliament and urban local bodies. And yet we are seeing that in Greater Mumbai ever greater amounts of waste is being sent to dumping grounds.

We can only transform our good intentions into outcomes if we allocate human and financial resources in the right direction. We need to demonstrate that we are sincere and serious about reducing waste going to dumping grounds and are not just giving it lip service. Towards that end please find attached a spreadsheet drawing out a proposal to create the necessary budget for hiring the right human resource for undertaking activities and education which will show definite reduction in waste going to dumping grounds.

The spread sheet is still in draft stage and meant to give an idea. One manager per ward and 10 communicators/specialists per ward should be hired. Those numbers are presented. I will be happy to detail and contribute further when the idea find support conceptually. This in my list is the most important step which teh MCGM needs to undertake.

2) Creating an R&D and social entrepreneur support Budget

We need to create and R&D and innovation support fund in the budget. Grants need to be made available to SWM entrepreneurs to try out their projects. This will make available over the years a rich bank of practical knowledge about what is working and not working. I propose that Rs. 5 crores be kept aside in the SWM budget for such activity and a committee of known experts and practioners be formed to scrutinise and approve the proposals.
3) Create physical space for decentralised SWM
In the DP meetings earlier this year the most emphatic suggestion we made was the create space within the city for decentralsied solid waste management activities. The corporation needs to urgently create at least one more per ward dry waste collection and sorting centres like the one successfully running in Juhu, operated by Ragini Jain on BMC plot of about 10000sft. Once the space is provided the entrepreneur is able to set up support infrastructure like van for dry waste collection, administrator etc. setting in place a positive cycle and reduced waste going to dumping grounds.
Thank you once again for the opportunity and I will appreciate if MCGM comes back with comments on my suggestions and decides to incorporate these.

Regards,

Rishi Aggarwal

Research Fellow

Observer Research Foundation Mumbai

Would be happy to hear from you in the form of comments or email me. Please do share as well if you consider relevant.

Equal Budgets for Equal Streets

[This is the original submission for an article which appeared in a much edited format in TOI as here  and there is more if this interests you in response to my FB post]

How can we have equal streets unless there is an equal provision in our municipal and MMRDA budgets towards equal streets? This is the only thought which comes to my mind when I see the enthusiasm of thousands of residents of this great city who come on to Linking Road and S V Road for a short period of time on Sundays to enjoy the feel of streets free from cars.

As one of the most vocal opponents of the coast road project and also a member of Mumbai Transport Forum and Walking Project, bodies which are championing for improvement in public transport and walking conditions in Mumbai, I can see the disproportionate enthusiasm in the government toward the two issues. While the coast road has been declared as a project of national importance (no less) we see that millions of people using local trains, buses, the metro and who are also pedestrians by default find themselves short changed and deprived of receiving any such enthusiasm and response from politicians.

The municipal corporation intends to spend Rs. 8000 crore of public money to develop a 36km coast road from Marine Drive to Kandivali, which is to most of us in sustainable transport is representative of furthering the already unequal nature of our streets.

The budgets of urban local bodies appear esoteric to most and befuddle even some of us who spend our lives discussing urban issues and governance but these are very important documents, which shape the quality of life for the residents of the city. The budget is a fairly accurate insight into what are the issues of the people, which our politicians and bureaucrats observe, are affected by and consequently decide to impact for the better. Budgets are a statement of intent, of how public money collected from taxes by all the residents of the city will be used and hence need the attention of everybody who pays taxes.

Among the many budgets of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai there is a budgetary provision for the Road Department, which in the current year stands at approximately Rs. 2300 crores. Do citizens have even a modicum of equality or opportunity to shape the road department budget or philosophy? Have those who come on Sundays seen the budget lately?

Having worked with the road department significantly I clearly realise that this is a department whose officials are fundamentally tasked with designing and developing infrastructure meant to facilitate the movement of cars. In 2010, when I was an early employee at EMBARQ India the first proposal I had submitted to MCGM was to set aside funds in the budget for setting up a dedicated unit for Non Motorised Transport which would be staffed with people who are trained to design infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists and have a fundamental belief in Equal Streets. The then Additional Municipal Commissioner had jovially remarked to me that this was a very important but not urgent issue.

Being among the founding members of the Equal Streets movement (though not active subsequently) it is my thought and concern that those who are having fun on the streets on Sundays will also decide to become active citizens who truly champion the cause of Equal Streets and not just leave it at fun and games.

[Rishi Aggarwal is an advocate for sustainable mobility policies and is a Research Fellow at Observer Research Foundation, Mumbai]

Alternate locations for the Line 3 Metro Yard away from Aarey

The location of the yard for Line 3 Metro Yard is becoming one of the more contentious issues facing the preservation of the Aarey Milk Colony. Very little information is publicly available about the Metro Yard on the MMRDA website section for Line 3 here.

I started this post around a week before publishing date and by now have put in this letter – Metro3 yard from Aarey to BPT. There have been a whole lot more developments.

Using Port Trust Lands for Metro Line 3 yard

In the first map below the area marked in blue is roughly the area which is being earmarked and currently fenced of for development of the yard. Some representative pictures of the area are also shown.

Map 3 shows the alignment of the Line 3 Metro. A shed has to be made at either of the terminals to service the metro coaches. As per the current communications with the authorities the car shed can only be constructed at either of the terminal points. Since there is no land at the Cuffe Parade end, Aarey has been chosen. But a car shed can also be situated at land anywhere along the route as well. In the case of the Mumbai Suburban Railway car sheds are situated at Mahalaxmi and Parel. Similarly car sheds for the Line3 can be situated around the middle of the route. An extended underground arm can bring the coaches to the port trust and where land can be created in one of the plots marked in Map4.

How Mumbai should be using the port trust lands has been a topic of discussion for very long. Approximately 1000 acres of and will be available for the city and parcels of it are already available for use as of 2014. More information on the port trusts lands and a citizens plan is available here.

Just as Aarey is land owned by the government (Govt. of Maharashtra) similarly the Bombay Port Trust lands are owned by the government (Govt. of India). It stands to good reason that in larger public interest two important infrastructure needs of Mumbai’s citizens is met simultaneously.  One preserving and oxygen giving factory and second a car shed for an important public transport project.

Will this proposal cost more? Yes it might, because additional underground sections will have to be developed running 1-3 kms in length. But at this stage of the project it is absolutely doable because construction has not started. Any later and then it could cause some inconvenience.

Are activists and community being party spoilers? Most certainly not. If anything this will become a very strong lesson for MMRDA and other agencies executing public projects that it really does not help to be high handed and  nontransparent during the planning process thinking that if they were able to get their way till the close of project the same will be true when they start executing. When bits and pieces and soon enough the whole project plan becomes public domain knowledge peoples pressure hits back sometimes and in the case of Line 3 Metro it has hit with force to contend with. I wrote this post earlier – Sincere City, Not Smart City. When there is an all around (not just administration) lack of sincere affection and regard for how Mumbai develops then this is what happens.

Could Line 1 Metro Car shed have been used for Line 3 as well?

One of the points I have been making regarding the location of the Metro Yard for Line 3 is that possibly the same yard which has been developed for Metro Line 1 could have been used to service the coaches of the Line 3 as well. Below is the GE image of the yard for servicing Line 1 Metro coaches. The Line 1 and Line 3 intersect each other at Marol. It shouldn’t be very difficult to construct a ramp around Marol which would connect Line 3 with Line 1 and the coaches could have been served at the same yard? I think it was doable. It is all history now and cannot be done but we should not resist from doing an in study to qualify or disqualify this possibility.

The below image shows the Metro 1 Yard plot and the purple + yellow area together is 30 acres. The yellow area alone is approx. 8 acres and has been carved out from the plot for creating a big residential complex with high rises. Now instead of these high rises the same plot could have been used to create additional capacity for car shed space. There could possibly been a double deck yard as well. The ramp can be seen on the left side of the image. It goes down from the Metro corridor. One arm could have taken the coaches to a first floor deck. There is absolutely no pressing need for additional residential capacity in this area. Yes it was private land in a legal dispute (and we as a city should know full details of what transpired) and a settlement had to be reached but the State could have used a combination of good compensation and eminent domain to ensure that the complete plot was kept for a car shed, that too in the context where Line 2 and 3 were already on drawing board and not conceptualised subsequently.

This is also a good example of the shoddy urban planning of Mumbai.

The purple bigger portion is 30 acres and the carved out light yellow portion is 8 acres.
The purple bigger portion is 30 acres and the carved out light yellow portion is 8 acres.
The tall skyscrapers correspond to the yellow potion in the GE map
The tall skyscrapers correspond to the yellow potion in the GE map. The roof top next to it is the Metro Yard.

Honking – time people realised the root causes

@TrafflineMUM started their twitter campaign against honking with the hashtag #HornNoOk and I decided to contribute my bit but 140 characters can be a bit short to express, even as I added some good value to the discussion. My tweets have been aggregated here https://storify.com/rishi75/hornnook (there are some responses to the tweets as well)

I am a close observer of conditions on roads and at junctions where honking can be maximum. As Walking Project I am even more observing keeping the pedestrian aspect in mind. And though I would have my own criticisms of the behaviour of public, I will lay a major blame squarely on 2-3 government authorities of which the clear big one is with the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai. My root cause analysis says that the single biggest cause for honking is badly designed roads and junctions which create confusion, discomfort and indecisiveness in motorists thus influencing honking behaviour.  Within Mumbai there is a clear difference on how motorists behave on certain roads or stretches of certain roads. There are certain roads in Island city where you will see a definite reduction in honking because the road quality, design and aesthetics influence the behaviour of motorists.

Come to S V Road or an LBS Road or New Link Road in western suburbs or Film City Road, or 90 feet road in Dharavi or Hans Bugra Marg, look at the criminal neglect of these roads by the Road Department of MCGM. Look at how a Marine Drive or a Peddar Road or Veer Nariman Road or J Tata Road or Hazarimal Somani Marg get attention from MCGM.

How roads are designed and engineered and how traffic rules are made and enforced has an incredibly big role in influencing multiple behaviours and responsible for reducing honking on the roads among other effects. If a junction is well designed with 1) clear road markings, stop lines, well designed junctions 2) is not bumpy making vehicles do ad hoc movements, 3) has no dust and gravel on it, 4) is free of flooding and sewage and garbage on it and 5) has a sense of beauty and organisation around it then people are not stressed and feel motivated to do their bit in maintaining the beauty and aesthetic and organisation of the road.

But when the above points are missing – any one or all – which is the case with all the roads in Mumbai then people are continuously under stress and discomfort.  When order breakdowns on the street for any one reason, then it has a cascading effort and everybody is a victim – even some(not all) of those who are honking. Different people have different threshold levels and those with less threshold start honking first. There is cause and effect, honking is the effect not the cause.

MCGM- Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai – is responsible for most of the roads in the city. It is endowed with a budget – almost Rs. 2000 crores per year – which can give us roads likes these

 

What Island City of Mumbai with roads like Ambedkar Road, L J Road Annie Besant Road, Peddar Road and others get is this. These were roads designed by British so they had the compassion to have 3-5 meter footpaths on both sides besides symmetry in the roads, which influences user behaviour.

 

What 64 percent of Mumbai which resides in North West and North East of Mumbai gets is roads like these. These are designed by Indians for whom a few lanes of concrete are all that a road means, no idea of symmetry, no idea that roads are not just used by motor vehicles but also humans, no ideas of some investment in paints, no idea of aesthetics certainly. Only some jingoistic pride of India is the greatest.

If we are saying that people are to blame and the solution is change in peoples behaviour then what will we do as society to change peoples behaviour? Will we in the first place have well designed roads?

A large number of people are willing to take the blame on themselves or blame people in general. As if the solution is change in personal behaviour. Change in personal behaviour is what we have to aim at – that is the end, that is not the beginning in my opinion. When we link everything to bad behaviour of people we end up diverting attention from those who should be working on the real solution to control honking. Who should be working is the complete government apparatus. The government has been created to provide public services, which are needed by everybody but cannot be provided by a single person alone. Everybody needs to move around, that is why government provides roads, local train network, BEST bus network. No one commuter or even a group of commuters can provide that. Government has to provide not just what is visible but more importantly a lot of invisible things.

People taking the blame on their own selves for everything is the most convenient thing that can happen to irresponsible, indifferent and corrupt officials and politicians. And most people are too stupid or cowardly to understand this aspect. These people – numbering in millions – are a boon and godsend for the government framework and a lag on the efforts of activists who are continuously keeping a sharp eye on government functioning and working to improve it. Because so many people will blame themselves and few will understand the role of the government, the government framework is emboldened and can keep defeating the efforts of activists.

 Road design is one aspect, the other is education, awareness and enforcement of rules. Should the Public Health Department of again the MCGM not be engaged in simple campaigns borrowing from common sense?The government through policy can control so many aspects. It can direct motorcycle companies to develop public service campaigns against honking since motorcyclists are the worst offenders on the road today.

And then after MCGM has given superlatively designed roads and also created the public campaigns, the traffic police goes about developing and strictly enforcing rules.

 For a real solution to reducing honking we will have to go a lot deeper than just the usual rhetorical and jaded insights and witty takes.

Importance of public transport – the difference between Mumbai and Pune

I had a good conversation with my friend Neha whom I met after long. We were meeting to discuss her interest in doing something for the cleaning of Mithi river but since she had shifted to Pune it was natural to catchup on how she finds life there. She was quite unhappy with Pune as a city since it seemed to lack the energy and vitality which is so endemic to Mumbai. Probing further the number one reason turned out to be the absence of good mobility options, which could enable her to move around the city more freely for work, hobby or leisure. In the absence of a public transport system like in Mumbai she was left restricted to her home and work most times having to decide on every meeting and interaction outside of this from the lack of mobility options.

Being from Mumbai she was used to having a functional and comparatively speaking great public transport system in place, which can absolve people from the need to own a vehicle or two-wheeler to drive around. There is great trunk network in terms of the railway system which can be accessed in 30 mins from anywhere to go long distance and within the local areas the taxi, autorickshaw and bus network is dense and excellent. There are ten areas for improvement that I can point out for Mumbai but when one gets an external perspective it makes you appreciate all that is going right (and which we unfortunately are not investing in for the future).

She works in a technology company and is stuck to her office transport. A company bus comes to pickup at 7:30am and drops back by 6pm. Timings are fixed and have to adhered to if you do not want to miss. How much more boring can things get? There is absolutely no bus service or train or metro to access the office. auto rickshaws do not charge as per meter and are not easily available. Traveling by fleet taxis like Ola or Meru or Uber on a daily basis is too expensive. And she cannot drive a two wheeler and does not want to own a car.

In Mumbai she never had the need to own a two wheeler or car and consequently does not even know how to drive either. Rickshaws in Pune are badly governed in most parts and can charge unreasonably.

The bus network in Pune is pathetic. She was critical of the need to have spent public funds on BRTS since there is no congestion on Pune roads. And if money had to be spent on the project then it should have been completed and made functional. The public bus service is more like the state bus transport service and nothing which anybody in the middle class and working in the technology or ITES place would work in.

People like to go for art exhibitions or dance or theater performances or just loiter in favourite parts of their city, which need not be the closest from their residence or go for dinners and lunches or for a hobby classes or be part of advocacy group meetings or meet friends or shopping and more. In the absence of affordable and convenient mobility options a lot of these activities which contribute to a more fulfilled and improved quality of life are left as a preserve of only those who can afford to move around in personal transport or cars. The options maybe better for the lower socioeconomic bracket since they may choose bicycling (where too not many women) or using public bus service but the frequency is not that good.

Mobility provides opportunities for economic opportunities and a more full filling life and it should be among the fundamental priorities of any city government. Left unattended mobility will be left for only those who can afford it and it will lead to an overall deterioration of the cities economic ability and cultural profile.

At a time when the government is of speaking of Smart Cities it would be worthwhile to have a mission mode focus on first providing the basics of a good affordable public transport system in the 65 cities chosen as part of JNNURM. My recent article Leadership for Smart Cities

As part of some additional information for writing this post I searched “map of route density of buses in London” and came to this interesting link

http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2012/apr/18/london-bus-travel-map

A similar search for Pune brought this interesting link

http://www.mrane.com/punebusmap.php

About BRTS and dedicated lanes

Her remarks on BRTS reminded me of the continuous difference of opinion that I have with some members in Mumbai Transport Forum – our sustainable transport community in Mumbai – that as far as buses we need not worry much about providing dedicated lanes or BRTS alone to increase the use of buses by people.

My contention for buses in Mumbai is that we need to focus hard on the aesthetics, comfort (which means AC as well), hygiene, use of IT for predicting times, far improved bus stops and bus priority measures through signals or other means. We need to increase bus frequency on all trunk routes, even it means buying more buses to compensate for the higher turn around time of buses due to congestion.

Once we take care of this a sizeable amount of people who are currently anyways idling in their cars will shift to buses, preferring to reduce the burden if they are the ones driving or for cost reasons. A lot of those using taxis or auto rickshaws for longer routes would also shift.

In the Pune context there are just no worthwhile buses on the road at all. People will be interested in dedicated lanes and speeds for the buses if they first see the buses on the road, which they can use. Putting a BRTS corridor in place without first not investing in improving the fleet and quality of the existing public bus service is like going for cake before bread or putting the cart before the horse.

Buses provide an excellent choice for providing public transport for cities. Require very little additional infrastructure utilizing existing roads. Cost economical. They can be quickly put to service and can provide a better reach.

 

Images from Mumbai

Inside an AC BEST bus Mumbai A bus depot in Mumbai AC Fort Ferry 1 bus