Mumbai Patrol: Now is the time to pedestrianize Mumbai

Written By Unknown on Senin, 21 April 2014 | 22.23

MUMBAI: Lengthy walking tracks may appear unattainable in a space-starved city like Mumbai, but they are not. A plan presented to the municipality around two years ago shows that 500km of continuous walking and cycling space could be laid here stretching from the city's southern end to the far tips of the eastern and western suburbs. But for these to become reality, what is required is resoluteness on the part of the state and the public.

Architect-activist P K Das and his team together prepared the pedestrian-friendly Open Mumbai plan that seeks to make walking a mode of transport instead of the exercise form that it currently is. The proposal says that a remarkable 43%, or 208.2 sq km, of Mumbai includes green zones like gardens, playgrounds, encroached open spaces, no-development zones, lakes, wetlands and beaches. It suggests developing much of this as public spaces.

To give the city new and unobstructed walkways—and to link neighbourhoods in the process—the plan urges connecting natural assets like open spaces, beaches, nullahs and rivers. By linking waterways alone with walking paths, it says, the city would get around 150 sq km of open spaces. An additional 16km would be yielded by connecting beaches, 37km by linking planned nullahs and 28km by linking the four rivers.

The proposal was submitted to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation in 2012 and has been taken up for discussion during the preparation of the 2014-34 development plan.

Das concedes that its implementation may not be straight-forward. Difficulties may arise with each structure found between any two open spaces. "Hiccups like these will come up when a plan of such a magnitude is executed. But problems can be sorted and the plan can be tweaked by the BMC to suit the conditions on the ground," says Das.

Complex the plan may be, but it is not unrealistic. Its achievability can be seen in the Juhu Vision Plan, which seeks to integrate the area's beach with playgrounds and walking and cycling tracks. Work on a 2km walkway alongside Irla Nullah is underway with MPLAD funds from Javed Akhtar and is expected to be over by this year's end.

"The walkway will stretch from Juhu PVR to the Millennium Club. The Juhu example is a simple, humble and pragmatic way of dealing with the lack of walking space," says Das. "It can be replicated by people in their own localities if they take up the issue with the civic body while the development plan is under revision."

Activists and experts note that now is perhaps the best time for Mumbaikars to push the authorities towards making the city pedestrian-friendly.

The municipal corporation, while drafting the amendments in the city's development plan, has agreed to create 151 microplanning units comprising citizens. These units—each covering 3-5 sq km—will be asked in meetings after the general elections to give inputs on what development they think is needed, and not needed, in their regions.

"Micro-planning units have been created to provide citizens a forum to express their requirements, so that they can be budgeted for in the development plan. Locals should deliberate on the plan and take it forward," says Aravind Unni, an urban planner with the voluntary development organisation Yuva.

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