CST, Elphinstone: Not ‘Spirit’, Mumbai Needs These 5 Things

Narrow roads, political apathy, an inefficient BMC – whether in 2017 or in 2019, the solutions remain the same.

3 min read
Narrow roads, political apathy, an inefficient BMC — whether in 2017 or in 2019, the solutions remain the same.

“If heads are not going to roll, then this will be business as usual, we will keep hearing about the ‘spirit of Mumbai’. We can’t wake up only when 23 people lose their lives,” said Rishi Aggarwal, urbanisation expert said in an interview to The Quint after the Elphinstone bridge collapse in Mumbai.

In 2017.

Nearly two years later, not much has changed. On 14 March 2019, an overbridge collapsed near the CST station, killing at least six people and injuring 30 others. On the face of it, preventable oversights are the main cause of both the incidents. Roofing on the over bridge at CST would have increased its life, says Aggarwal. Similarly, the Elphinstone bridge which collapsed in 2017 was too narrow for its daily pedestrian traffic.

So, how can more such incidents be prevented? Keeping platitudes about the ‘spirit of Mumbai’ aside, what are the four things which need to change in Mumbai? The Quint revisited their conversations with urban planners and experts for some answers. This is what they said, both in 2017 and 2019.

Narrow Roads, Political Apathy, an Inefficient BMC

After the Elphinstone bridge collapse, urban planners and urbanisation experts spoke on how the infrastructure in Mumbai hasn’t been able to keep up with the development in the city, due to oversights in urban planning. They said Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) needs to take responsibility for the crumbling infrastructure in the city and simple quick-fix solutions need to be implemented to prevent further incidents of overbridge collapse, especially in the monsoon.

With the CST overbridge collapse, reports have emerged that a BMC audit had taken place of the structure just six months ago. Speaking to urban planning experts, here are the insights which have emerged.

1. Roofs for Foot Overbridges
“I have been documenting these FOBs and the problem is that there is no roofing. This particular FOB has no roof which means that during Mumbai’s monsoon a lot of water accumulates which leads to erosion, a lot of damage to the structure and makes it even more weaker. This is one of the bridges which has very heavy pedestrian use, so simple measures like putting a roof over it, would elongate its life or reduce its damage.”
- Rishi Aggarwal, Director, Mumbai Sustainability Centre & Urbanisation Expert, 2019

2. Lack of Coordination Between BMC and Railways
“What kind of systems are in place to review and how has railways been monitoring the systems? Is there enough of a response? There are two main points – lack of coordination between the city and the railways and no real commitment to fixing infrastructure issues.”
- Himanshu Burte, Assistant Professor, School of Habitat Studies, TISS, 2017

3. Political Apathy of Mumbai Citizen
“The solution clearly is, change the politics. Increased political participation from the citizens of Mumbai. There is absolute political apathy in the people of Mumbai, and that is at the root. Even political parties are not to be blamed, as much as the political apathy of the average citizen of Mumbai.”
- Rishi Aggarwal, Director, Mumbai Sustainability Centre & Urbanisation Expert, 2019

4. Narrow Roads
“There are still narrow roads around Elphinstone and Lower Parel. From an urban planning perspective, changes should have been made by 2005-07.”
- Rishi Aggarwal, Director, Mumbai Sustainability Centre & Urbanisation Expert, 2017

5. No Shelter in the Rains
“The threshold area between the railway station and the road gets flooded immediately. When it is raining, most places in the station are flooded and there are water pools everywhere. There is no shelter, that’s why commuters took refuge under the foot-over bridge – it is an ideal case of stampede.”
- Chandrashekhar Prabhu, Urban Planner, 2017

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