Friday, March 31, 2006

Peddar Road Flyover - some thoughts

Anchit raised some interesting points in his comment on my earlier blog. I thought I'd put in a blog just to voice my thoughts on what he said. Extracts of his comment in red, and mine in the usual font.

"But I just don't see why the governement should spend so much money on a project that's going act as a stop gap arrangment for hardly a few years. If money is going to be spent on this project, the government will soon be short of funds again, and then the worli-nariman point sea link plan will be stalled."

1. If you see from the data at the bottom of my earlier blog, the Peddar Road Flyover (PRF) is estimated to cost Rs125crores. As compared to that, the Worli-Nariman Point Sealink (WNPSL) will cost Rs3,500crores - or about 30 times more. I doubt that the WNPSL will be stalled if the PRF is built. Think about it. I don't think the Bandra Worli Sea Link project (to cost Rs1,300 crores) was stalled for so long because the JJ Flyover (costing Rs100crores) was built, right ?

2. Yes, you're point on "stop gap arrangement" is valid. This is the price that the city has to pay because of the complete failure on previous administrations to build the entire Bandra-Worli-Nariman Point Sealink. If the Sealink was operational, I doubt there would be a need for the PRF. But we can't change the past so lets come back to the present. Assuming no delays, the WNPSL is due for completion in 2010, and the PRF by 2009. Yes, that's only a year apart. But the traffic on Peddar Road is bound to increase four years down the line. Moreover, traffic on Peddar Road won't stop once WNPSL is built, right ? So even for them, the PRF (in 2009) should be of some use.

"Peddar Road has six lanes. The part of Hughes Road the flyover is going to go over has eight, and Babulnath road has four. The flyover is going to have only three lanes. The maximum the flyover will do is cut down on signals. The entire length of the flyover has six signals, three of them are hardly ever red. (I think it's 130 seconds of green and 20 seconds of red). However, the signals that are cut down may just as well be negated by the lack of enough lanes on the flyover."

Again you've raised valid points. Now, I'm no traffic or urban planning expert, but here's the logic I'm assuming. Rush hour traffic occupies only half of all the lanes that you mentioned (the fact that rush-hour in Bombay nowadays seems to be in all directions is another issue, but lets keep that for some other time).

Now, are three lanes enough ? I don't know, but I'd assume that the lack of space means that they can only make three lanes for the PRF and not more. In my view, whether signals are green or red hardly matter when traffic is gridlocked - a normal rush-hour phenomena on Peddar Road. I travel on that stretch everyday and I know for a fact that

  • rush-hour traffic at the RTI signal (the junction of Hughes Road and Babulnath) is at a standstill for at least 10-15 minutes irrespective of the signal being green or red.
  • Evening northbound traffic on the upward slope of the Vama Flyover is so bad that cars automatically take up one, even two, of the opposite lanes (simply because there is no divider on that up-stretch, as there is on the down-stretch near Vama).
  • Vama to Cadbury - I don't want to even talk about the torture that stretch can be. It's enough to admit people into Jaslok, which happens to be nearby.

So I'm figuring that if you have a dedicated three-lane, uni-directional flyover without any signals, that should help move the above traffic faster - which is the point of flyovers, isn't it?

Anchit - thanks for visiting my blog, and I'd appreciate your thoughts on my views.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Latatai, maaf kara, nigha aata


No, that’s not from today’s newspapers. As per this link, it’s a five-year old photo of the-then (and today's) Chief Minister, Mr. Vilasrao Deshmukh presenting a bouquet to Lata-tai and Asha-tai, both of whom had visited them to voice their protest over the Government’s proposed Peddar Road Flyover. Of course, the State Govt then relented and eventually gave up the project. I hope they don't make the same mistake now.

Yet, 2006 is quite unlike 2001. We have more traffic. Considerably more traffic. We also have more newspapers and more news channels - which have warmed up to this story quite well. In fact, the best article so far, in my view, came in Mumbai Mirror a few days back which carried interviews of residents staying next to the J. J. Flyover.

My quote for the day came from the above interviews. Ms. Farida Mhyn says "Whether its Lataji or a common man, nobody can hold the city's development to ransom. We all have to make sacrifices. We made sacrifices when it was asked of us -- the construction work used to take place only in the night. You can imagine what we went through those 20 months”. Touche.

Coming back to the Peddar Road Flyover, per se, it seems to be a no-brainer. I support it, because I’m among those spending a meaningless half-an-hour to cross that 3km-stretch from Chowpatty-end to Haji Ali. Everyday. Yet, I also blame the Government for failing on the Western Freeway Sea Link Project. If this project had been completed on time, there would probably not have been any need for the Peddar Road Flyover.

Cut to the present. The Bandra-Worli Sea Link is due to be completed late next year, after which work will commence on the Worli-Nariman Point leg. That leg itself will take another four years to complete, per this article . So, ostensibly, the Peddar Road Flyover will only ease traffic pressures from Haji Ali till Chowpatty in the interim. Just for that, logically, there is a need for the flyover to be built.

The longer-term cure was, and will be, the Bandra-Worli-Nariman Point Sea Link in its entirety. And that’s due, at best, five years from now.

In the meanwhile, consider these facts and figures, from today's Times of India.


Peddar Road's traffic burden

  • Length: 3km (from Haji Ali to Wilson College)
  • Daily traffic: 60,000 passenger car units
  • Rush hour traffic as below -
  • Morning (defined as 9.30am to 11am) (south-bound): 2,000 PCUs
  • Evening (4.30pm to 7.30pm) (north-bound): 2,400 PCUs
  • Proposed flyover - 3km long and three-laned
  • Cost - Rs125crores.
  • Elevation - 5.5metres (somewhere between first and second floor)

Bandra Worli Sea Link (some more in my earlier blog)

  • Length: 5.6km
  • Lanes: 8
  • Cost: Rs1,300crores
  • Work started: 1999
  • Deadline: end-2007

Worli-Nariman Point Sea Link

  • Length: 14km
  • Lanes: 8
  • Cost: Rs3,500crores
  • Start: December 2006
  • Deadline: 4 years after work starts

Any take on what Mumbai will look like in 2010?



Blogroll for Lata v/s Peddar Road flyover.
Boolet point
Govindraj Ethiraj
Dilip D'Souza
Episodes
DJ Brigger
Random musings
Lets talk sense
India Uncut
Here and there
Mumbai girl
Uptown girl
arZan
Sorry if I missed out anyone. Please do add to this list.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

SEZ who, SEZ when?

Today's Times of India has a huge article on page 2 on the Navi Mumbai and Maha Mumbai Special Economic Zones (SEZ). The Navi Mumbai SEZ also has its own website, but I could't track the Maha Mumbai SEZ site. In any case, as this HT article informs us, both are integrated. The article also provides a map (given below) of the location of these SEZs.



I couldn't locate the link to the TOI article, but here are some interesting numbers I got from it.

1. Area - 32,000 acres
2. Cost - Rs25,000crores
3. Population - 1000,000
4. Investment - US$50bn

Incidentally, the article also informs us that Jurong Town Planners, the same people that designed Singapore, will be "crafting the master plan" (for the NMSEZ).

Another data point from the article - Shenzhen China is the poster boy of SEZ. It has attracted US$27.53bn worth of FDI as against India's total FDI of US$34bn over the comparable period.

In case you're interested in SEZs in India, do visit the Indian SEZ website (which probably will have to be worked upon if we have any hope of inviting serious foreign participation).

Yes, you will groan about the fact that the Navi Mumbai SEZ is an old idea that's never really taken off. Check out this article, which was also gung-ho as far back as Aug-2003. But nothing's happened. Probably the development of the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link and the new international airport hold the key to the whole project taking off. As will the investment of giants like Reliance, which is backing this project. I'm still researching this topic and will get back as and when I can get more gyan.

Nevertheless, yet again I find myself hoping for this city. Even if hope is a four-letter word. There is hope. Probably ten years (five?) down the line, things could look different.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Bandra Worli Sealink work on in full throttle


From the HT's March18th article we learn that work is on at "full throttle" on the Bandra Worli Sealink. Superb photo above, from the article, of the progress so far.

The article says "While 800 metres of the first four-lane bridge have been completed from the Bandra end, 600 metres of the bridge stand completed on the other side.... Four lanes of the Sealink will be completed by mid-2007. It will take another two years for the entire project to be done....The total length of high-tension wire used for the bridge is equivalent to the circumference of the Earth!"

Well, here's hoping that this link is finished at least on time (i.e. next year). It should give some relief to cars stuck on Mahim Causeway, which nowadays is nothing short of torture thanks to a subway currently being built nearby. Subway - yes, that's right. What purpose this will achieve I have no idea, but the powers-that-be (MUIP/MUTP/votever) probably had the Haji Ali junction in mind wherein north-bound traffic is made a free left with pedestrians using the subway to cross over to Mahim Church (although suspiciously I can't see any exit of the subway!).

Wishful thinking ? I hope not. After all we are sacrificing our today for the "better tomorrow" being promised to us by the powers-that-be. Amen to that.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

DCR 58 Epilogue - The Supreme Court verdict


"I tried so hard and got so far, but in the end, it doesn't even matter" - In the end, Linkin Park.

In the end it was all about the letter of law and not of spirit. Putting an end to the entire Mumbai Mill Land saga, the SC (SC) in its decision on 7th March 2006 dismissed the earlier High Court verdict on this case. Simply put – open lands do not include lands vacant after demolition. What that means is that mill-owners get to retain their entire built-up area and have to share only the open spaces with the BMC and MHADA.

I’ve just finished reading the SC verdict and as in my earlier blogs on this issue, I’ll try and highlight some important points. For my earlier five-part series on this issue, these are the links for Part 1,Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5

A matter of interpretation: At the heart of it all was a simple point on interpretation. Did the term “open land” include “land vacant after demolition” or did it not. The High Court in its Oct-05 judgment held it did. The SC in its Mar-06 verdict has said it does not. Hence the SC judges spend considerable time and space in explaining how they’ve interpreted the law in making their conclusion.

Irrelevance of rains (and floods): The High Court had kept in mind the 26th July 2005 floods in Bombay when passing their Oct-05 judgment (On page 6 of the 368-page verdict in Oct-05 , the High Court had stated “Recent deluge during the last week of July this year, exposed as to how the city’s sewerage and drainage system was unable to cope up and for almost a week the entire city was completely crippled.”)

However, the SC considers this “irrelevant” (Ref Clause K re: DCR 58, where the SC states that the High Court’s judgment is “wholly unsustainable as several irrelevant factors, e.g. deluge in the city of Bombay in 2005, were taken in to consideration for the purpose of interpretation of DCR58”.

Yes, indeed. What does the development of mill land area have to do with the floods this city had faced? Sure, a few more 50-70 storey towers wouldn’t really matter if another such flood were to hit the city, right? Oh, sorry, that’s not how laws are supposed to be interpreted. Yep, I won’t make a good lawyer.

Impact on environment: Does DCR58 (the 2001 version) affect the environment and impact the quality of life of a Bombay Citizen and hence considered as unconstitutional? Um, no. The SC judges believe that “The environmental aspect considered in DCR58 may not be to everybody’s satisfaction but the regulation has to be interpreted…having regard to a holistic approach to a large number of problems”. Hence, DCR58 isn’t unconstitutional from the environment p.o.v. After all it was made because the earlier DCR58 (1991 version) “failed to achieve the desired objective forcing the State to take a conscious policy decision”.

How green is my mill: Another point on questioning the constitutional validity of DCR58 (2001) was that reduction in green areas would again impact quality of the citizen’s life. The SC first questions the factual accuracy of this contention simply because “reduction” implies that the greens have to exist in the first place(Duh!). It then outlines the mill-owners argument that under DCR58(2001) more private greens would come up, since they would get more land(“three more Shivaji parks would be added”). And then goes on to say that just because the “ideal situation” could not be brought about by the State, DCR58(2001) cannot be unconstitutional.

Oh by the way, did you note the “private greens” there ? – interesting concept, reminds me of the time when I was shooed off from the garden in my (richer) friends building, because, well, I didn’t stay there.

600 or 400acres: The SC lays to rest the contention that the mill land area available for development is 600 acres. It’s not. It’s 400 acres because 200 acres comprise of running textile mills not available for development. Hmm… I wonder if the owners of these mills now have any incentive of shutting them as well. After all, why make cloth when you can make money?

More is the opposite of less: Using two simple tables, the SC proves that more land becomes available to BMC and MHADA under DCR58(2001). This is painfully obvious from the fact that only three mills were proposed for redevelopment under the old DCR58(1991) as against 25 under the DCR58(2001). Yes – more mills means more lands and less mills means less land. Here are the tables

Under old DCR58 (1991)




Under revised DCR58 (2001)





Workers – divided we fall: It’s indeed sad that the workers could not get united for their causes. While the RMMS sided the mill-owners, the GKSS sided the BEAG.

The RMMS stand – 35,000 workers stand to benefit from the VRS schemes entered into by the RMMS and the management of several mills.
(a) As on date, the NTC has discharged their entire liabilities making payment to the extent of Rs398.76crores, payable to the workers.
(b) The Mah. State Textile Corp (MSTC) has also cleared outstanding dues of its workers to the extent of Rs22crores.
(c) For private mills – out of total amount due under VRS of Rs808.75crores, about Rs631.05crores have been paid
(d) However, Rs373crores remains outstanding to be paid to 20,000 workers – and this is directly linked to the development of the mill owners. How much is Rs373crores? To put things in perspective, the NTC raised Rs2,041 crores, or more than 5 times that amount by selling five mills, or one fifth of the total 25 it owns.

The GKSS stand – Also refer my blog Part 4 on this. The GKSS highlighted the defaults made by the mill owners and also said that the workers dues have not been paid substantively. Moreover, the revival scheme has not been implemented and no guidelines framed for the Monitoring Committee by the State for overseeing the disbursement of funds. And of course, the fact that the workers dues are only a paltry sum of the amount received by the mill-owners for selling their land.

Of course, the issue of the workers dues was outside this case. No wonder the SC said "In these appeals, we are not concerned with the said issues".

What now ? The pessimist in me says that this was pretty much the last chance the city had to save itself. The optimist in me believes that more land to the private developers should mean some focus on planned and sustainable development, as against giving more land to BMC and MHADA, both infamoulsy corrupt and inefficient bodies. I'm stuck between the two. But despair is coming more easily to me now than hope.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Smaller gig in the sky

And yet again the sky was kind enough to provide some more captivating images today. That damn wire in the middle of some photos is courtesy indifference of the joker on the floor above where I work.

Can't quite get over the birds flying away in the fourth snap.

"I'll spread my wings and learn how to fly, I'll do what it takes till I touch the sky. And I'll make a wish, take a chance, make a change, and breakaway..." (courtesy: Kelly Clarkson, Breakaway)







Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Great gig in the sky

Bombay was treated to some brilliant skies last week and luckily I had my camera around. As Evenstar informs us these are altocumulus clouds and their advent is typically followed by rain.










For more photos, go to Evenstar's blog.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Black Friday 1993. Never forget.

Friday, 12th March 1993. Everyone in Bombay has a story for that day. Mine - A piece of paper stuck on a local train which simply read "Blood needed, please come to King George's Hospital."

Sunday, 12th March 2006. Cursory references in today's edition of TOI and HT. And that too courtesy of a bomb, which was defused yesterday at Chowpatty beach.

For the record, here are some details from S. Hussain Zaidi's authoritative and hard-hitting book "Black Friday. The True Story of the Bombay Blasts".

Blast 1 - 1.28pm - The Bombay Stock Exchange. 84 dead, 217 injured.

Blast 2 - 2.15pm - Narsi Natha Street. 5 dead, 16 injured.

Blast 3 - 2.25pm - Air India Building. 20 dead, 87 injured.

Blast 4 - 2.30pm - Lucky Petrol Pump, Dadar. 4 dead, 50 injured.

Blast 5 - 2.55pm - Century Bazaar. 113 dead, 227 inured.

Blast 6 - 3.05pm - Zaveri Bazaar. 17 dead, 57 injured.

Blast 7 - 3.13pm - Plaza Cinema, Dadar. 10 dead, 37 injured.

Blast 8 - 3.20pm - Sea Rock Hotel, Bandra. No one dead or injured.

Blast 9 - 3.25pm - Juhu Centaur Hotel. 3 injured

Blast 10 - 3.35pm - Airport Centaur Hotel. 2 killed, 8 injured.

"Subsequent police investigations revealed that 257 people were either killed or went missing in the blasts while 713 were injured."

Dawood Ibrahim, the main accused, is still at large.

Monday, March 06, 2006

View from above II - Bandra Worli Sea Link

 

It does look like a lot of work is happening on the Bandra-Worli Sea Link. I think I've advanced my estimate for when this will get completed from Dec-2010 to Dec-2008.

Picture courtesy yet again, Mr. Mahesh. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, March 04, 2006

View from above

 

Bombay Dyeing before and after.
Picture is courtesy of my colleague Mahesh. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Mumbai Mill Lands - what's coming up where


The table above is from this brilliant and fairly detailed Indian Express article by Chitrangada Choudhury (dated October 23 2005) . It gives an indicative list of the kind of structures planned/existing in parts of the mill land area. Indeed that's a lot of buildings...sorry, "towers", due to come up in the Mill Land Area. I don't even want to hazard a guess on the kind of strain this will put on our infamously crumbling infrastructure.

Disclaimer - Data in the table above is courtesy Indian Express and taken from their article - link provided - http://www.indianexpress.com/full_story.php?content_id=80551.

And since we're talking about builders and their plans for Mumbai's Mill Land, how can we forget that between March and July-2005, various builders also bought five NTC mills for a total of Rs2,041cr. A lot of money. That's roughly equal to Rs81,640 per worker that worked in Girangaon, Bombay's Mill District, based on peak mill labour strength of 250,000 in the '80s. Probably a random statistic.

The above NTC sale was set aside by the High Court on 17th October 2005 . Two months later, the High Court's verdict was stayed by the Supreme Court which also asked developers to go ahead with demolition of the buildings, but -aha - not to proceed with the construction. For that please await the Supreme Court's final verdict.

While passing Shiv Sena Bhavan today, I noticed that the Kohinoor Mills have been razed. Which is ironic considering that it was sold to Matoshree Realtors and Kohinoor Projects. Raj Thackeray is a director of Matoshree, while Manohar Joshi's son owns Kohinoor Projects.

I do hope that what these Shiv Sainiks ultimately put up on the erstwhile Mill Land benefits the Marathi Manoos that their party fights for. As for the other Marathi Manoos that worked in the Mill Lands - I'm not sure what benefits they'd get from the malls, multiplexes and towers that would most likely sprout up on the land on which they once worked.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Mumbai Mill Lands - who has how much


That's a lot of mill-land. Just got that above data from http://skyscrapercity.com/archive/index.php/t-216755.html, which again picks it up from Malini Bhupta's article in last year's India Today (paid site).

While the article is fairly exhaustive, it also seems a bit tilted towards the builders, with lines like "The PIL was strangely silent on the workers' dues and unpaid loans." Well, the issue was on open spaces in Bombay right?. Moreover, the workers did get their say (refer the Oct'05 High Court judgment, page 285). And what they had to say was quite depressing.

At the end of the day, there are some facts which are crystal clear. The DCR58 was made with the sole purpose of rehabilitation of sick textile mills. Key word "sick". So, to facilitate rehabilitation, and pay off workers dues, the Government provided for the mill-owner to sell his land and share it equally with the BMC and MHADA. One fine day, the Government changed this rule to give more land to the owners and less to the BMC and MHADA. The BEAG questioned this decision and the High Court held in their favour, ruling that the land has to be shared equally as per the old Rule.

The Supreme Court is now re-looking the whole case. If it decides that the new Rule stays, then the mill-owners get more land. If it decides against, then the BMC and MHADA get proportionately more land. Be it the mill-owners, or the builders who have bought the property, or the BMC or MHADA , one thing is clear - more land means more buildings (low-cost or skyscrapers) means more people, more cars, more traffic, more crowd. And our already crumbling infrastructure can't handle this. It's too late to figure why all this happened. And it's probably too late to contain the damage.