Mumbai | 15th August, 2015: The Coastal Road is a futile project and a faulty plan. While it is a widely known fact that this Rs.12,000 crore costly mega project will only serve less than 1% of the city‘s people, the Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan (GBGBA) protests this project and would like to add that flyovers and other such plans are never going to deal with the problem of traffic, congestion etc. in the city. This city has seen tens of flyovers in the past built in the name of decongestion but nothing seems to have solved the problem. The government must look for other real and practical solutions. We believe that putting cap on the purchasing of the vehicles could be one solution. Any plan should be for the benefit of all sections of society, not only for the elite.
It is imperative for the Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan to protest the coastal road project also because this project involves huge investment that it financially just not viable and the same is evident from the withdrawal of MMRDA from taking up the project. As far as building open spaces for public on the proposed road is concerned, it will be used only by handful of local well-to-do residents, large proportion of the city’s population will find it inaccessible. This is another proof of a faulty plan.
While the government is hell-bent of carrying out this mega project with huge investment, it has slashed considerably the budget on social sector including housing for poor. More than 50% of Mumbai’s population lives on 9% of total land of Mumbai with a high degree of congestion in inhuman conditions due to absence of basic amenities. The slum dwellers have to toss about from one government office to another to seek approval for basic amenities in their bastis and inevitably return empty handed.
Various slums are going to be demolished in the name of protecting mangroves in near future but the project like coastal road easily seems to get green nod even if mangroves come in the way. The slum dwellers actually protect the mangroves they live around because these plants serve as the source of livelihood for the fisherfolk in the area. Why so much injustice to the poor?
In addition, these slum dwellers serve the city. Auto/taxi drivers, vendors, domestic help, sweepers, labourers, construction workers, fisher communities and a large number of people working in unorganized and informal sectors live in slums. It is impossible for Mumbai to function without these people. Hence, it is necessary for the government to think about this large proportion of population living without any facility, before planning any mega project like coastal road, with huge investment.
Often, the slum dwellers are termed as ‘encroachers’ by the government authorities, which they are not. They serve the city before acquiring any smallest plot for themselves. Unfortunately, when it came to staging a protest against the coastal road today at Bandra Promenade, the organizers of the protest received calls from the police to not hold any protest against the project. Is this not the encroachment on the right to expression of the citizens? Who are the real encroachers here?
Mukesh Jaiswar Bilal Khan