The New Mumbai Coastal Road: My Thoughts

As a Mumbaikar, I have lived and commuted in the city for 17 years, regularly doing so for 13 of them. My journeys have almost always been conducted in cars. Unfortunately, I do not think that I have the gumption to make it through a day on the Indian public transport system. While the overcrowding of trains and the chaotic saturation of cars, people and animals in seemingly unplanned, ancient streets provoke an image with an exotic allure for tourists, it is an inefficient, frustrating tiresome reality for commuters to live through daily. Not to mention the dangers of having dozens of people hanging out of the doors of the train carriages and drivers packed in lanes within inches of the other vehicles. Over the years, I have noticed the level of congestion increase. Commutes that were once 20 mins long have now doubled due to the creeping slow traffic. All the cars contribute to a significant amount of noise pollution and accidents every day. According to Conserve Energy Future (CEF) website noise pollution can be caused by poor urban planning and transportation. Both factors are in play in Mumbai, among others. These can cause damaging effects such as hearing problems, health issues such as on cardiovascular health and impacts on ecology. The website also attributes troubles in communication due to noise pollution. Although, usually such troubles stem from commuters themselves, starting with one frustrated driver mouthing off on another and usually ending in an Indian UFC fight night in the middle of an already congested street. Instead of professional fighters you have a 5 feet tall, open shirted cab driver with his sunglasses hanging off his neck against your portly dad who is out of breath before he’s gotten out of his Honda Civic. Brawling Mumbaikars aside, there are multiple reasons for further developing roads, highways and bridges to ease the flow of traffic.
A city’s roads are comparable to rivers. Due to a growing population, the pressure builds up. To ease such pressure new roads, must be constructed. The Bandra- Worli Sea Link opened in 2009, demonstrated the potential for success with such roads. It connected North Mumbai with South Mumbai and drastically shortened the travel time between homes and places of interest such as the distance between Colaba and the airport. The proposed four- lane coastal road project will span the length of the city’s coast facing the Arabian sea and will be built in two phases. Phase 1 would involve construction from Princess Street up to the Rajiv Gandhi Sea Link and Phase 2 would extend towards Kandivali. There are crucial advantages to constructing such a road. The most obvious include easing the heavy volume of traffic on the roads currently being experienced. This would also decrease the number of vehicle collisions and the negative externalities of densely populated roads. The other is to further connect the city and create more job opportunities for people living across it as it may become easier to get a job that is of a further distance from one’s place of residence due to being able to waste less time on the road. This is also an important step in developing the city to compete with the world’s Alpha cities. Such a road would also bring with it multi- storey car parks and recreational areas around it. This would help develop the city’s infrastructure.
On the other hand, it could have some negative implications. To complete the project, approximately 1% of Mumbai’s mangroves would be destroyed. While this appears to be a small percentage it could have a negative impact on the oceanic ecosystems that rely on these mangroves to survive. Mumbai has also faced major flooding in the past which is directly linked to the receeding numbers of mangroves in the waters around the city. Most notably, the floods that took place in 2005 devastated the city. By further removing them it may only add to that problem. Apart from a negative impact on the environment, I have some concerns to do with the quality of infrastructure. The project is one of the most ambitious the city has faced due to the scale of the construction and the complexity of it. This could result in an inconsistent construction whose effects could be amplified by the size of the project. This could mean that any potential issues may disable significant percentages of the road. In the past, parts of the Mumbai metro have collapsed due to being weak and having to face the monsoon, thus collapsing under the pressure of the rains.

This project is very ambitious. I believe that it is possible that it may not be as successful as predicted due to the incredibly confusing logistics. However, should it succeed, it will further push Mumbai on a competing path with major world cities. It will demonstrate India’s prowess in structural development to the world.

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