Friday, April 13, 2007

A Tale of Two Cities

Welcome to Navi Mumbai - screams a hoarding welcoming you to the satellite city off Mumbai.
However being a part of this township for over 10 years, I can tell you how not to welcome someone to a satellite city.

The first obvious irritant is the toll (you pay the toll even before you see the welcome sign) - every time you zip crawl in and out of Navi-Mumbai you pay 25 INR for a 4 wheeler (it has been increased by 66% over the past 2 years). Toll was supposedly collected for development of Navi-Mumbai - but after almost 2 decades of Navi-Mumbai "development", the toll continues to exist, and the road bridges built over Mumbai are being funded by Navi-Mumbaities. I use the road bridges only when I travel to Mumbai - whereas Mumbaities always use them day in and out(and yes they don't pay a penny if they dont cross to Navi Mumbai in a car). Even local train tickets are at a premium - as always the mantra is development.

The latest gift for this township are the power cuts (I am talking of only scheduled power cuts) . Power cuts have gone up by a whopping 300% over the past one year. Now it stands at a wonderful 4.5 hours a day. Yes Panvel, Khargar and other areas of Maharashtra suffer more than Navi-Mumbaities. Newspapers scream about a proposed one hour power cut in Mumbai and almost everyone ignores what Navi-Mumbai is facing. This despite the fact that MSEB (the power generation company) meets the shortage of Mumbai at the expense of Navi-Mumbai . Navi-Mumbai meets this through inverters, which sadly is a very very short term solution and helps them make a quick buck. Property taxes are higher. Oh Yes, before I forget, petrol is cheaper by one buck because Navi Mumbai has no Octroi - but then I would rather pay that additional buck than go through the other troubles.

Connectivity is the biggest concern, Hongkong airport is built on sea and connectivity to mainland is through high speed trains. Time taken- under half an hour. Malaysia too has a similar airport - connectivity, same as HK. I take almost one hour to travel 30kms from Navi-Mumbai (and I am not talking about the airport.). Navi-Mumbai is supposedly the new destination for the second international airport and there is no talk yet of an express way to link it to the main land. Considering present traffic and road conditions it will take you 2 hours !!!

There are no direct bus services from this satellite township to the mainland either - the buses have to stop at a hundred stops in the city too. Harbour lines (trains that connect Navi-Mumbai and Mumbai) are neglected souls, the train frequency is a heavenly one every 15 minutes (Yes the HK airport express frequency is also one in 15 minutes but you need to travel here to realize the difference). The rake length cannot be extended to reduce the passenger load since the famed CIDCO who supposedly thought the railway platforms were state of the art have built them in such a way that its almost impossible to extend the length of the platform.

Now property supplements in newspapers scream that Panvel is the next gold mine (let them find the electricity to mine it) - the power cuts here are only 5 hours - slated to increase to 6 - thats half of a 12 day. Try reaching Nariman Point (India's business district) and you will spend 2 hours on a good day (Panvel train frequency is on an average one in half an hour !!)

Welcome to Navi Mumbai indeed!!

India needs more such townships (see this vision) i.e more urban areas to develop (so there are more Gurgaons to ease pressure on every Delhi); that was probably the objective of Navi-Mumbai. However nothing seems to have worked. What we need to do is to develop high speed connectivity, ease of commute, so that people don't mind staying away from the Central Business District. i.e develop infrastructure before you develop a township. We did the same mistake in the case of airlines (threw open the sector to privatisation without improving the airports), almost did the same mistake in Telecom (yes its a success but spectrum is still an issue and now expanding sub base possible but that will leave you with more "network busy" messages) and if Tatas small car is a hit, the same thing in roads. All this development of Real estate/townships is without adequate development of Power, water and connectivity to mainlan - the basic necessities. Caveat emptor.


Anand Sarolkar said...

We need to work with a holistic approach for the development.

'nu_anse said...

quite a post there mate .... mumbai and navi mumbai have rather become the most unplanned cities in the last decade, neglect of the officials or every growing population,

i am amazed at the recent spurr of construction at the palm beach road, huge density of population again problem ! ... we need to screw our nuts on both of them ...i heard my professor say "in south there development in politics and in the west theres politics in development"....try coming out wid some sollutions too !!

Neelakantan said...

There was a solution when it all began. If you want people to come to some place, create great infrastructure and have great connectivity. In Navi mumbai, there were good roads, cheap real estate, but connectivity was an issue. Today we have all that and even though you see Navi Mumbai slowly move up (just because Mumbai is too costly or has no space), connectivity is still pretty sad.

Having said that there is a lot of dirty politics there. The palm beach road and buildings around are a clear violation of CRZ, yet some "names" have got away with it. It was a free area; how much would these nutcases have gained by having it as a promenade. Today it is a kitschy garish version of "Marine drive" when it could have so easily been a landmark...

Ranon said...

Just wanted to point out that in Mumbai the cost of the bridges is recovered through a Rs 1 cess on petrol and diesel. So Mumbai fellows also pay for the cost of the flyovers.