Tuesday, August 08, 2006

MUTP - Mumbai's Unending Transport Problems

That's an alternative full form for Mumbai Urban Transport Project - or MUTP. My piece on this ambitious project appeared in yesterday's Hafta. Reproduced below.

Whither tomorrow

A brief history of development
It all began in 1962. The year in which LA-based M/S Wilbur Smith prepared a detailed road transport plan for Mumbai. Proposals in this report included construction of freeway networks – primarily the Bandra-Nariman Point and Sewri-Nhava Seva links. The Wilbur Smith study was also supplemented by a Mass Transportation Study in 1967-68 whose proposals included construction of underground rail network.

Interestingly enough, soon after this study, a Regional Plan in 1973, highlighted the fact that expensive projects like freeways and metros would become necessary as long as economic activity in South Mumbai continued to rise and get concentrated. The study reiterated the need for a Bandra-Kurla Complex and a Navi Mumbai.

So, what happened to all the proposals and recommendations from these ages-old studies and reports ? Some were completed (Nhava Seva Port), some given up (a rapid transit system), some taken up in the BUTP and the MUTP (read ahead), some currently being implemented (the Bandra Worli Sealink), one big one whose foundation stone was laid a couple of months back (Mumbai Metro) and one whose tender will be awarded this year (Mumbai Transharbour Sea link). Indeed, infrastructure upgrades in Mumbai have had a long, chequered past.

Ambitious plans and grand designs
Post the formation of the MMRDA in 1975, the first major transport overhaul achieved for the city was the Bombay Urban Transport Project (BUTP). Implemented between March-77 and June-84, the projects achievements included addition of 700 buses and three bus depots for the BEST and construction of five flyovers and road-widening projects across the city. Cost of the project? All of Rs40cr, or US$50m (at the then rate of Rs7.94/$), half of which – or US$25m – was funded by the World Bank.

Almost 20 years later, the Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP), is being implemented at a cost of Rs4,526cr – just under a billion dollars – again half of which (US$542m) will be funded by the World Bank. Needless to say, it’s the most ambitious infrastructure upgrade ever undertaken for this city, and will be implemented by no less than five different agencies – the MMRDA, the Mumbai. Rail Vikas Corp., MSRDC, BEST, and of course our very own BMC.

The rail component (Rs3,510cr) of MUTP includes addition of lines between Mahim-Borivali, Kurla-Thane and Borivali-Virar. The road component (Rs1,016cr) includes large projects like the Jogeshwari-Vikhroli Link Road and the Santacruz-Chembur Link road.

Controversies abound
Expectedly, controversy and delay has dogged the MUTP from day one. While the preparatory work for the MUTP was conducted in 1988, World Bank funding for the project came through fourteen-years later in 2002. However, the biggest challenge to the MUTP remains the issue of relief and rehabilitation (R&R) of people affected by this massive project (PAP) – or the 19,128 families, as per the MMRDA’s own web page on the MUTP.

The total cost of R&R is pegged at about Rs480cr (included in the overall project cost) and as per the Government of Maharashtra’s R&R rules, each project affected family is entitled to get a tenement of 225sq. ft, free of cost. In case of urgent shifting, transit accommodation of 125sq. ft with all basic amenities is to be provided to the PAP. World Bank norms also require all PAP to be resettled before any the start of engineering work.

Over April and December 2004, the independent Inspection Panel of the World Bank received four separate requests for inspection from organisations representing residents and shop-owners in Kurla and Jogeshwari. The Inspection Panel then investigated these requests and issued a report in Dec-2005.

To quote from the World Bank’s website - “The Panel found that the Bank did not comply with a number of requirements under its own policies. Among other things, the Panel found that the Bank overlooked the needs of low and middle-income shopkeepers, did not consult with them in the selection of resettlement sites, and did not ensure that suitable arrangements were provided for their resettlement. The originally proposed resettlement sites posed difficulties for many shopkeepers in restoring their businesses and maintaining incomes, as confirmed in a recent Business Needs Study launched under the Project. The Project also failed to give adequate attention to the employees of the displaced shops, who faced risks of income loss.

In addition, the Panel found that many other affected people, including the most vulnerable, faced adverse impacts as a result of non-compliance with Bank policies. Serious problems were identified relating to environmental and living conditions at the resettlement sites and income restoration. Environmental and social support services at the sites were not ready or adequate when people were shifted, and many lacked adequate access to water and sewerage.”

It took all of four months for the MMRDA and the Maharashtra State Government to address these concerns, before the World Bank resumed funding of the MUTP on 30th June 2006. World Bank Country Director, Michael Carter, noted that “The Bank and the Government of Maharashtra have been working closely over the last few months to address the issues that led to the suspension of disbursements, especially in respect of the grievance process, the resettlement of shopkeepers, and post resettlement services. We are pleased that good progress has been made in each of these areas.”

While the road and R&R components of the MUTP have their own share of hurdles to face, the rail component is not seeing a smooth ride. Newspaper reports indicate that the Railway Ministry and the Maharashtra Government are in a bind over who would bear the cost of the project. As for the Mumbai Rail Vikas Corp – one of the implementing agencies for the rail component of the MUTP – it seems to be in a state of limbo. A plea filed by Borivali resident Devraj Roy, under the Right to Information Act, revealed that precious little has been achieved so far (2% to be precise on some projects), target dates have been extended even as railway officials ran up foreign travel bills running into lakhs.

Anniversaries as reminders
Even as chaos reigns over the billion-dollar MUTP there is no immediate respite in sight for the Mumbaikars manifold commuting woes. MUTP itself is targeting 2008 for completion, as is the Bandra-Worli Sea Link. The Trans Harbour Link is yet to find a contractor and don’t even think about the Metro (2020). We’re six years away from the 50th anniversary of the Wlibur Smith study on Mumbai’s roads and have barely anything to show in terms of progress on any of these 30-40-50 year old projects. Indeed, a grim reminder that Mumbaikars have borne too many todays and are yet to see a better tomorrow.

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