Mumbai Deluged, Delhi Choked

India needs a complete revamp of its urban development infrastructure which is sustainable, responsible & serving of the citizens’ best interests.

BY DANFES

It is almost apocalyptic seeing people suffer without much hope & succor with the onset of one deluge after another, year after year. What adds injury to insult is the consistent failure of the powers & administration to live up to their tall but hollow promises in the aftermath of such disasters. It appears as if our lawmakers& those entrusted with the responsibility of managing civic conditions have thought it to themselves that people must get exposed to periodic hardships once in a while, lest they forgot about a concept called Sleeping India. It is equally appalling seeing a passive citizenry self-applaud their own grit & spirit after every such shock & be prepared for a similar eventuality the next time too. Perhaps Mumbaikars just like others elsewhere feel resigned to their fate & to the indiscriminate encroachment & flouting of building laws, civic facilities, water bodies, wetlands, wasteland, and wanton construction in connivance with corrupt government officials to eke out some additional space for themselves.

The authorities who take shelter under some clumsy excuses year after year must hold their heads in shame & not rub salt to the wound by issuing stale statements &passing the buck. There can’t be a worse case of a dereliction of duty & an indifferent attitude given that we are a country poised to be the world’s biggest economy &apower to reckon with. Yet we see our top tier cities like Mumbai getting deluged for days on end almost each year & quite routinely we hear our lawmakers making announcements, some even being loathsome of their own administration & others in a customary fashion, blaming the guy next door or officer of another department for the mess.

It is a sordid tale & nobody seems to have learnt any lesson from past experiences. Last year, the city’s new Development Plan (DP) 2034 came into force after a delay of four years. This crucial document that will dictate how Mumbai develops over the next two decades, however, doesn’t address one of the city’s most stark current and future challenges: Monsoon-related flooding. A joint exercise by the Mumbai civic body and the state government, the two authorities that have failed the city every monsoon since 26/7 deluge, the DP is a glaring example of the short-sightedness of our authorities. Even when the government took its first step to open up salt pan lands by setting up a five-member committee to consider a proposal by a private developer to open such land in Kanjurmarg and Bhandup to build one lakh affordable homes, there seems no solution in sight for the destructive downpour. Worst, the DP was drafted after our city planners and authorities witnessed the mayhem of 26/7 deluge and the yearly monsoon-led paralysis of the city since then. Not only does it not address climate change in any way, the DP instead opens gates for development on saltpan lands, the environment bulwark against floods.

Save for excuses, which the authorities have in plenty, the fact remains that they have failedthe citizens, routinely. It is easy to blame the rain Gods, yet after 2005, 2011 & again in 2017, the authorities are still contemplating whether to demarcate flood plains or not. Instead of maintaining these as no-go areas of mangroves, wetlands and salt pan lands, they have allowed construction on them and plan to open these further for misuse. The BMC’s entire exercise of augmenting drains is an exercise in futility. Augmenting capacity of drains will work in cities with higher elevation and not for Mumbai, a city below the sea level. It may work during low tide but with high tide the sea water will push into the mainland,’’ said Stalin D, an environmentalist.
Urban planners also point to indiscriminate paving and cementing in the city as one of the major causes of floods as soil percolation is no longer possible.

Delhi roads Choked
Delhi has more than 10 million vehicles, but road space is not increasing at the same pace.It is almost daily spectacle seeing an ocean of cars queuing endlessly on almost all important roads, vying for some space to crawl out of the logjam. The commuters encounter harrowing time each day going to work or returning home. Most of the time the commuters are resigned to probable delays by hours & that adds to the air pollution with so much toxic emissions from these either stranded or slow moving cars.

The doomsday scenario has been forecast by a host of agencies such as the Central Road Research Institute(CRRI), Centre for Science and Environment(CSE) and the Railway Infrastructure Technical & Economic Services(RITES) on the basis of studies undertaken by them.”Delhi’s congestion has tripled in the last eight to 10 years and threatens to fail all projections. The capital’s congestion is worst among 35 Indian cities and is four times more than Mumbai and Bangalore,” CRRI report.

Congestion is growing at zip, zap, zoom speed as thousands of new vehicles are added to the city’s roads every day.Already, Delhi and Mumbai, an ongoing study says, are recording 15-16kmph top speeds during peak hours, eroding companies’ productivity by way of lost man hours. About 40 per cent productivity is being lost to time wasted on the road, says an IBM study on commuter pain in global cities.A study in South Delhi and the capital’s satellite cities Noida, Greater Noida, Gurgaon and Dwarka has found that motorists crawl at 4kmph for almost 24 minutes in two hours of driving, wasting 2 lakh litres of fuel for every one million cars plying daily.”Six years of Delhiites’ careers are spent in snarls as 7 million man hours and Rs. 100 crore in productivity is lost to gridlocks, making the capital the worst congested city in India.”The only way out is widening the six-lane Ring Road to “18- 24 lanes and doubling the carriageways of the other arterial roads” to avoid gridlocked traffic.Delhi might have the most extensive road network at 21 per cent of its geographical area but it is saturated and choked with vehicles. Of 170 traffic locations surveyed by RITES, about 70 locations were found to be carrying more vehicles than their design capacity.