MUMBAI: India’s financial capital Bombay became Mumbai in 1995, but the name change did not rescue the city from any of its chronic problems.
Though it is still among the richest cities in India and the world as well, topping the list with an estimated GDP of $310 billion, the glory of Mumbai is on the wane, “Mumbai residents’ litanies of woes are legion, but none worse than the fast-crumbling infrastructure services, which have endangered lives and livelihoods of 22.6 million people in this city,” says Akhileshwar Sahay, noted urban infrastructure expert The cacophonous chorus of nine municipal corporations in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), eight municipal councils and eight hundred villages without a unifying conductor of the orchestra makes the matter worse.
“It is time to reimagine Mumbai by creating new urban metropolitan centralities to bring in international competitiveness and a better quality of life,” says Dr Pedro Ortiz, a metropolitan planning consultant to international institutions.
At a 2 per cent annual growth rate, the city brings in 4,60,000 new inhabitants annually, which is about 100,000 families, who need 100,000 dwellings. Mumbai does not have the land to support this. Seven decades ago, the decision to jump the city across the bay was made precisely to deal with this issue. Navi Mumbai was created and has been a success.
Dr Ortz and other experts feel that it is desirable to look further and create an extension to Navi Mumbai as a set of urban centralities, parallel to the Navi Mumbai ones, beyond the east hills as part of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR). The MMR, which spans over 6500 square kilometres and over eight municipal corporations and eight councils, has a geographical setting built on parallel lines. These lines consist of the coast, coastal hills, bay green, bay, Navi Mumbai plain, inland hills, inland valley, plateau foothills and Indian plateau. This connectivity is primarily a north-south one, which will be needed to be stitched together with the eastwest. While bridges were built across the bay to get to Navi Mumbai, the new version will need to be created through green and grey corridors.
“This reticular pattern to the east will support an important stock of residential units, Balanced Urban Development (BUD) that will provide for all urban necessary functions,” Dr Ortiz adds. The accumulation of these logistic infrastructures provides substantial potential for developing a global platform for innovation, research and high-tech solutions. “What this centrality will do is add value to Mumbai’s strategic objective. Knowledge cities and research and technology hubs may emerge, giving competition to the Silicon Valley,” Dr Ortiz predicts.