I believe Mumbai is one of the greatest cities in the world. It works well and inspires its citizens to work productively because of the way it is built. Mumbai as compared to any city in India has the maximum proportion of people who use public transport or walk to work which are fundamental components of any good city.
So where and why have we failed inspite of Mumbai having all the essential ingredients to make a livable city and inspite of having a great entrepreneurial flair amongst our people. Below are some of the causes:
- Slums were convenient to permit as it created a large source of unofficial income. Indiscriminate declaration of NDZs and the Urban Land Ceiling Act made even private landlords queue up their lands to slum lands. Housing supply was completely bottled up by severe and draconian laws.
- It is well known that India has the most complex and venal bureaucracy, definitely the worst in Asia when it comes to bureaucracy for conducting business. Making India one of the most difficult places in the world to do business. This has ailed the Financial Capital too.
- We then failed to extend our metro rail system to create a grid which spreads throughout the city instead of only on a north south axis.
- We did not make adequate provision of additional roads considering that Mumbai has a lower percentage of road area as a percentage of its land mass than is the norm.
- We also did not create new public spaces and allowed the few we have to be encroached or disfigured.
What can we do to make Mumbai a sustainable and livable city?
1) The solution to Mumbai’s future is to make it more vibrant. Lutyens Delhi and Chandigarh are not example to be replicated. What are we trying to emulate? We are not a Monaco or a Mahableshwar or a Saint Tropez. Isolated pockets of developments on the outskirts of a city will only create colonies which are more like asylums. You can have an isolated development as an escape from a busy city life. But we cannot live and work in such places unless we want to create a huge private automobile connecting infrastructure.
2) The city must grow organically outwards with every 200 acre being a mixed use neighbourhood pod in places like Navi Mumbai and Vasai. Today because of zoning regulations, dormitory type developments have come up.
3) We need to reduce the dependence on private automobiles within the city. The streets of great cities like New York or London are full of taxis and buses. We must pursue that model of a walkable and a mass transit driven city
4) We need a grid network of Metro Trains.
5) We need to have roads with 3 to 5 M footpaths/ Pedestrian streets which are un-encroached.
6) We need to provide enough incentives and remove bottlenecks to resolve the housing crisis.
7) We need to provide for public car parking and reduce private car parking in buildings.
There is a lot to be done at the nitty-gritty level but the city also need developments which can make a significant impact and also raise resources.
We need to create new development with large public places for example in
1) Development of the Dock lands. Anyone driving pass can see it a miserable place full of filth and lying under unutilized. Only 2% of the cargo arriving at the port is meant for the city.
2) Use the land between Cuffe Parade and Nariman Point to create a most scenic and colourful waterfront district of the city with a harmonious mix of developments. Other waterfront areas of the city need also to be developed with large public spaces.
3) Barrage a portion of the Ulhas River at two ends so that it could be converted into a new fresh water lake. This has been done at the Marina Bay in Singapore.