Coast Road diary


Today I spent time trying to understand what will be the capacity to transport of the coast road project.The 128 odd km train network transports 7 million people everyday. 4000 BEST buses running on whatever number of route kms transport 4 million people. Similarly the 36km coast road, how many people will it transport?

For example if the project is 36 kms long and has four lanes and if each lane is 3.5 meters wide then we have a conveyor belt whose total area will be

For one kilometer

1000 meters into 14 meters = 14000 sq.mtrs.

For 36kms

14000 x 36kms = 504000 sq mtrs.

Now if each car(to begin with only cars) is occupying 25 sq. mtrs of space then we can have 504000/25 = 20160 cars on this conveyor belt – two lanes are for south and two for north.

Now if these lanes are moving at a consistent speed of 50kmph then how many vehicles pass through in an hour? How many people (depending on vehicle type, single person driving a car or a bus full of people) would be transported in an hour? How many in a day.

I checked the coast road report and realised that the dimensions of the road are much more

Widths of coast road

We will see a total road width of 36ms so the above calculation changes to

1000 x 36 = 36000 sq. mtrs.

For 36 kms

36000 x 36 = 1296000 sq mtrs area

And 1296000/25 = 51840 cars

Subsequently I decided to check up on google and found this useful document – technical paper from Transport for London on the same subject. Though the document has not given the answer it has all the correct formulae and principles to be followed. Now hopefully I will be able to with the assistance of more trained people be able to ascertain how many people will be able to flow in the peak directions on the coast road.

My concern is that as per the coast road they are providing 18 meters of road in each direction which is 60 feet wide. I do not see any road along the west coast which is 60 feet wide – one side? Everybody moving on the coast road has to join the mainland sometime and when four lanes converge into less than two lanes like in Bandra and Juhu and Andheri then will that not lead to traffic backing up on the coast road? Leading to traffic jams transferring from the internal city roads to the coast road?

Inputs to BMC Solid Waste Management five year vision plan – Swacch Mumbai

In November 2014 The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai – MCGM or also BMC – invited citizens who have been involved with the solid waste management issue to contribute to a five year vision plan that they are developing to address Mumbai’s waste management. The following message was received in my inbox.

In response to Hon. Prime Minister of India’s call for “Swachcha Bharat” at the launch of this ambitious nation-wide programme on 2nd October, 2014, MCGM intends to prepare a comprehensive five year action plan about cleanliness and sanitation for the entire city of Mumbai under “Swaccha Mumbai Abhiyaan”. 
In view of the same, suggestions are requested from different stakeholders. We are aware that your organization plays an important role in tackling various issues related to urban solid waste management and is actively working in your field of expertise.
We would welcome if your organization could share its expertise in form of views/suggestions/recommendations for developing a vision document for Clean Mumbai. We will take into consideration your valuable inputs/suggestions and draft an action plan to achieve total cleanliness in the city by 2019.


Office of Chief Engineer (Solid Waste Management)
89, Love Grove Complex,
Dr. Annie Besant Road,
Worli- 400018
In response I put in the email copied below in italics with this attachment MCGM Budget for decentralised SWM. The sheet in the PDF document is work in progress but my reading is that for Rs, 30 crores such a setup can work very well and the BMC should absolutely invest in such an initiative. Like I have been continuously saying that there is no rocket science at all in waste management. One of the biggest components is training, education, awareness and enforcement all of which is human resource intensive.
BMC is wasting crores of public money on corrupt transportation contracts which are meant for siphoning of public money and create the problem of garbage dumps but is not willing to spend on hand holding and training of people. Every European and North American country has spent enormously on capacity building to achieve the great cleanliness standards that they have.  If you still haven’t seen the Satyamev Jayate episode please do here for some more insight.
Dear Sir/Madam,

Thank you for providing the opportunity to contribute to the process of developing a vision document for Clean Mumbai. I apologise for the delay since I was very busy. I have following three specific suggestions which the BMC should consider for implementation.

1) Create budget to hire dedicated human resource for supporting segregation
As a country we are acutely aware of the need to reduce the amount of waste that goes to dumping grounds and to take all necessary measures to achieve the same. The issue has been taken cognizance of adequately by various statutory institutions of the country – the Supreme Court, Parliament and urban local bodies. And yet we are seeing that in Greater Mumbai ever greater amounts of waste is being sent to dumping grounds.

We can only transform our good intentions into outcomes if we allocate human and financial resources in the right direction. We need to demonstrate that we are sincere and serious about reducing waste going to dumping grounds and are not just giving it lip service. Towards that end please find attached a spreadsheet drawing out a proposal to create the necessary budget for hiring the right human resource for undertaking activities and education which will show definite reduction in waste going to dumping grounds.

The spread sheet is still in draft stage and meant to give an idea. One manager per ward and 10 communicators/specialists per ward should be hired. Those numbers are presented. I will be happy to detail and contribute further when the idea find support conceptually. This in my list is the most important step which teh MCGM needs to undertake.

2) Creating an R&D and social entrepreneur support Budget

We need to create and R&D and innovation support fund in the budget. Grants need to be made available to SWM entrepreneurs to try out their projects. This will make available over the years a rich bank of practical knowledge about what is working and not working. I propose that Rs. 5 crores be kept aside in the SWM budget for such activity and a committee of known experts and practioners be formed to scrutinise and approve the proposals.

3) Create physical space for decentralised SWM
In the DP meetings earlier this year the most emphatic suggestion we made was the create space within the city for decentralsied solid waste management activities. The corporation needs to urgently create at least one more per ward dry waste collection and sorting centres like the one successfully running in Juhu, operated by Ragini Jain on BMC plot of about 10000sft. Once the space is provided the entrepreneur is able to set up support infrastructure like van for dry waste collection, administrator etc. setting in place a positive cycle and reduced waste going to dumping grounds.
Thank you once again for the opportunity and I will appreciate if MCGM comes back with comments on my suggestions and decides to incorporate these.


Rishi Aggarwal

Research Fellow

Observer Research Foundation Mumbai

Would be happy to hear from you in the form of comments or email me. Please do share as well if you consider relevant.

The Desire to do Good versus the Desire to be in Power

Towards the last few days of 2014 I found myself sitting through what seems to be a standard (excruciating) discussion on any progressive waste management project. I was left pondering about a number of aspects. It will be 20 years now that I have been pursuing the issue of better waste management for Mumbai and after pursuing 20 years of idealism and do good-ism still going through some same trials and tribulations and challenges made me ponder about what really is going on.

Here I am sitting with absolute crystal clarity about how to go about the project with a clear idea of how much effort the municipal corporation should be putting in along with creating a budget and hiring the right people et all and all that I get to hear is how one should be twisting and turning the project to avoid back lash from vested interests well entrenched in the corporation who would not like to see waste reduction at source happening or even feel threatened for a perceived change in power structure.

Beyond a point the conversation made me realise how in the same period that I have been stubbornly, consistently and almost foolishly desiring to do good for the cities environment (through SWM being one of them), to achieve multiple goals of

  1. Better utilisation of the tax payers money,
  2. of reduced use of fossil fuels in unnecessarily following a pick and dump method for (mis)managing waste,
  3. of reducing the foreign exchange burden from running trucks on imported fossil fuels,
  4. of reducing congestion on the roads from unnecessary trucks trips,
  5. of reducing air pollution from the movement of the trucks and also the burning of waste on dumping grounds,
  6. off reduced green house gases from all of the above

During this same time there is another set of people whose behaviour has also been very consistent and they have a far greater success rate to show than it seems I ever will. People who may or may not have a desire to do good – to achieve the above goals – but most certainly have a consistent desire to amass more and more power and wealth. This is the politicians of Mumbai. Some of them are MPs, some MLAs, others Councillors with ambitions of becoming MLAs and MPs.

Beyond a point almost everybody on my side of the table has had the same foolish behaviour and faces the same fate.

Any politician who has been associated with the municipal corporation and more specifically with the solid waste management issue since last two decades or more or even a lot less has seen a consistent rise in his career (I cant think of a her) over this time period. Activists and the do-gooders still have the same struggling conversations of how to generate resources for even small pilots. During the same time any counterpart politician has seen himself lord over ever increasing budgets of the municipal corporation, with no shortage of opportunities to create contracts and deals to fill their coffers and be able to generate funds for their rise up the power ladder, from being powerful as a Councillor to MLA to MP. Being able to create the necessary funds and infrastructure to have office and staff and communication and travel and more budgets. All resources that the do-gooders have not been able to ever generate any funds for; you can find them still having the same frustrating conversations about finding one full time person and a desk and a cupboard to store material and of families who are fed up with their pursuits.

Those desirous of being in power do not have to go about begging for funds and donations. They have large hearted people willing to fund them or they have become experts at extracting money at knife point. The same industry or business person, who will torture a do-gooder for making a donation will willingly pay up to a threatening politician. After being in power the politician has access to vast reserves of public money, which is also like the public willing to write a cheque to them.

On the worst affected end of the spectrum you have do-gooders who decided to get into the business end and ended up destroying their wealth completely. None of the politicians and IAS officers and other officials who fudged contracts, lied through their teeth (even in courts on oath), cheated and bribed and worse find themselves in the same fate. They are more powerful and wealthy and even if affected in some cases not destroyed.

Another very consistent behaviour pattern has been of the educated middle class of the city – possibly even more determined than the do-gooders or the politicians, to exhibit almost pathological levels of indifference and complete mastery to justify the same. I am very clear that the behaviour of the middle class creates the base on which politicians build their castles and the do-gooders scuffle around in their shanties.

There will never be a Swaccha Bharat in a country where the atma is so aswaccha. Desiring to do good for the country never pays, desiring to be in power (on the message of doing good) almost certainly does. Please do leave in the comments section all your wonderful excuses of being so pathologically indifferent and uninvolved.

More options emerge for the Line 3 metro car shed

In continuation of finding means to mitigate the effects or shift the Line 3 Metro car shed being planned in Aarey Milk Colony some of us in Save Aarey and senior members of BJP had a good meeting at MMRDA on 9th December with the officials in-charge of the Metro project.

Besides the usual discussion about lessening the number of trees to be cut by doing changes in alignment or shifting the plot to some nearby options the more interesting new information was that other land parcels were considered for situating the car shed had been considered in the early stages of the project but when they could not be obtained then Aarey was finalised. By the end of the meeting there was enthusiasm and hope that possibly one of the other options could still be revived.

The two options were

1) Within the Kalina Campus of the University of Mumbai, which has a total area of about 120ha and most of which is unutilised. The University management completely refused to entertain any possibility since they have a Masterplan for utilising the land but were held back for want of funds. MMRDA can possibly invest considerably in the development of UoM in lieu of land for the Metro car shed and even provide a station there for its students.

2) Reclaiming land at the Colaba end of the Line 3.

From what I saw on Google Earth the Kalina land seems a bit difficult and so I will below comment on the Colaba option.

Between the plot considered at Aarey and the Colaba coast the ecological value of the Aarey plot is far higher than the sea to be reclaimed at Aarey. Aarey’s air pollution mitigation, flood mitigation and general scenic relief to thousands of people is huge compared to the sea at Colaba. I say this as someone who was played one of the strongest roles in conservation along the coast. I have also been most vocal in the past decade on the enormous flaws in the way the CRZ notification is framed and implemented. As is quite symptomatic with us we tend to miss the big picture completely with most of our policies and legislation. Where violations to CRZ are in a nature of private profit nothing stops from it being violated as can be seen in many instances (can be discussed separately).

While CRZ and opposition of environmentalists to reclamation will be cited as a reason for not considering Colaba for a car shed, we see that CRZ seems to be no hurdle for the coast road project, which in terms of damage to the environment is far more significant and is facing enormous opposition not just on environmental grounds but more fundamentally as not being a sound solution to solve traffic congestion in Mumbai.  And at a massive cost of Rs. 8000 crores at that and agreed upon in a most undemocratic manner.

So in short it makes perfect sense to reclaim some land at Colaba for the car shed. The images below need to be referred.

The Yellow Plot is 10 acres (4ha)

This plot already exists and can be used for the ramps to emerge from underground.

The Green Plot is 54 acres (21ha)

This plot is currently covered with bustling slums, the Backbay Bus depot and mangroves on the edges. The slums are in a pretty bad condition and could do with a proper scheme to provide better housing on the same locations. Some images from the slums there at the end of the post.

The Maroon Plot is 84 acres (34 acres)

This plot is the best option for the car shed because in the green option there will be issues with rehabilitating the slums. On the sea ward edge is the remnant of the last attempt at reclamation. Most of the land in this area including the World Trade Center, Cuffe Parade and Navy Nagar are all built on reclaimed land. The sea in the maroon plot is not harbouring some greater ecological value compared to the Aarey plot. The area is already protected by the sea wall on one side. If global warming or sea level rise or tsunami will be a threat it will be to the whole city and not the metro alone.

Now keeping the above in mind we quickly need to have widespread discussions in the city to discuss between Aarey and Colaba Reclamation (with some room for Kalina as well) and close the matter.

State of the slums in the Green Plot show above

Equal Budgets for Equal Streets

[This is the original submission for an article which appeared in a much edited format in TOI as here  and there is more if this interests you in response to my FB post]

How can we have equal streets unless there is an equal provision in our municipal and MMRDA budgets towards equal streets? This is the only thought which comes to my mind when I see the enthusiasm of thousands of residents of this great city who come on to Linking Road and S V Road for a short period of time on Sundays to enjoy the feel of streets free from cars.

As one of the most vocal opponents of the coast road project and also a member of Mumbai Transport Forum and Walking Project, bodies which are championing for improvement in public transport and walking conditions in Mumbai, I can see the disproportionate enthusiasm in the government toward the two issues. While the coast road has been declared as a project of national importance (no less) we see that millions of people using local trains, buses, the metro and who are also pedestrians by default find themselves short changed and deprived of receiving any such enthusiasm and response from politicians.

The municipal corporation intends to spend Rs. 8000 crore of public money to develop a 36km coast road from Marine Drive to Kandivali, which is to most of us in sustainable transport is representative of furthering the already unequal nature of our streets.

The budgets of urban local bodies appear esoteric to most and befuddle even some of us who spend our lives discussing urban issues and governance but these are very important documents, which shape the quality of life for the residents of the city. The budget is a fairly accurate insight into what are the issues of the people, which our politicians and bureaucrats observe, are affected by and consequently decide to impact for the better. Budgets are a statement of intent, of how public money collected from taxes by all the residents of the city will be used and hence need the attention of everybody who pays taxes.

Among the many budgets of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai there is a budgetary provision for the Road Department, which in the current year stands at approximately Rs. 2300 crores. Do citizens have even a modicum of equality or opportunity to shape the road department budget or philosophy? Have those who come on Sundays seen the budget lately?

Having worked with the road department significantly I clearly realise that this is a department whose officials are fundamentally tasked with designing and developing infrastructure meant to facilitate the movement of cars. In 2010, when I was an early employee at EMBARQ India the first proposal I had submitted to MCGM was to set aside funds in the budget for setting up a dedicated unit for Non Motorised Transport which would be staffed with people who are trained to design infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists and have a fundamental belief in Equal Streets. The then Additional Municipal Commissioner had jovially remarked to me that this was a very important but not urgent issue.

Being among the founding members of the Equal Streets movement (though not active subsequently) it is my thought and concern that those who are having fun on the streets on Sundays will also decide to become active citizens who truly champion the cause of Equal Streets and not just leave it at fun and games.

[Rishi Aggarwal is an advocate for sustainable mobility policies and is a Research Fellow at Observer Research Foundation, Mumbai]

Essential information on the Save Aarey campaign

Just dumping stuff here till a website is in place. Too busy to structure this but not very difficult. As much of the news coverage and letters.

Mid-Day tunnel article

3173_003 3173_004 3173_002


Letter suggesting that a tunnel option be considered for Goregaon Mulund Link Road rather than widening Aarey Road involving cutting of a large number of trees.

Letter suggesting that a tunnel option be considered for Goregaon Mulund Link Road rather than widening Aarey Road involving cutting of a large number of trees.

GMLR tunnel option2 11Nov

11th Nov – Mr. Srinivas

Metro3 yard from Aarey to BPT

Draft of letter which can be sent by housing societies, individuals and all other entities to the Hon. CM

Letter to CM

Alternate locations for the Line 3 Metro Yard away from Aarey

The location of the yard for Line 3 Metro Yard is becoming one of the more contentious issues facing the preservation of the Aarey Milk Colony. Very little information is publicly available about the Metro Yard on the MMRDA website section for Line 3 here.

I started this post around a week before publishing date and by now have put in this letter – Metro3 yard from Aarey to BPT. There have been a whole lot more developments.

Using Port Trust Lands for Metro Line 3 yard

In the first map below the area marked in blue is roughly the area which is being earmarked and currently fenced of for development of the yard. Some representative pictures of the area are also shown.

Map 3 shows the alignment of the Line 3 Metro. A shed has to be made at either of the terminals to service the metro coaches. As per the current communications with the authorities the car shed can only be constructed at either of the terminal points. Since there is no land at the Cuffe Parade end, Aarey has been chosen. But a car shed can also be situated at land anywhere along the route as well. In the case of the Mumbai Suburban Railway car sheds are situated at Mahalaxmi and Parel. Similarly car sheds for the Line3 can be situated around the middle of the route. An extended underground arm can bring the coaches to the port trust and where land can be created in one of the plots marked in Map4.

How Mumbai should be using the port trust lands has been a topic of discussion for very long. Approximately 1000 acres of and will be available for the city and parcels of it are already available for use as of 2014. More information on the port trusts lands and a citizens plan is available here.

Just as Aarey is land owned by the government (Govt. of Maharashtra) similarly the Bombay Port Trust lands are owned by the government (Govt. of India). It stands to good reason that in larger public interest two important infrastructure needs of Mumbai’s citizens is met simultaneously.  One preserving and oxygen giving factory and second a car shed for an important public transport project.

Will this proposal cost more? Yes it might, because additional underground sections will have to be developed running 1-3 kms in length. But at this stage of the project it is absolutely doable because construction has not started. Any later and then it could cause some inconvenience.

Are activists and community being party spoilers? Most certainly not. If anything this will become a very strong lesson for MMRDA and other agencies executing public projects that it really does not help to be high handed and  nontransparent during the planning process thinking that if they were able to get their way till the close of project the same will be true when they start executing. When bits and pieces and soon enough the whole project plan becomes public domain knowledge peoples pressure hits back sometimes and in the case of Line 3 Metro it has hit with force to contend with. I wrote this post earlier – Sincere City, Not Smart City. When there is an all around (not just administration) lack of sincere affection and regard for how Mumbai develops then this is what happens.

Could Line 1 Metro Car shed have been used for Line 3 as well?

One of the points I have been making regarding the location of the Metro Yard for Line 3 is that possibly the same yard which has been developed for Metro Line 1 could have been used to service the coaches of the Line 3 as well. Below is the GE image of the yard for servicing Line 1 Metro coaches. The Line 1 and Line 3 intersect each other at Marol. It shouldn’t be very difficult to construct a ramp around Marol which would connect Line 3 with Line 1 and the coaches could have been served at the same yard? I think it was doable. It is all history now and cannot be done but we should not resist from doing an in study to qualify or disqualify this possibility.

The below image shows the Metro 1 Yard plot and the purple + yellow area together is 30 acres. The yellow area alone is approx. 8 acres and has been carved out from the plot for creating a big residential complex with high rises. Now instead of these high rises the same plot could have been used to create additional capacity for car shed space. There could possibly been a double deck yard as well. The ramp can be seen on the left side of the image. It goes down from the Metro corridor. One arm could have taken the coaches to a first floor deck. There is absolutely no pressing need for additional residential capacity in this area. Yes it was private land in a legal dispute (and we as a city should know full details of what transpired) and a settlement had to be reached but the State could have used a combination of good compensation and eminent domain to ensure that the complete plot was kept for a car shed, that too in the context where Line 2 and 3 were already on drawing board and not conceptualised subsequently.

This is also a good example of the shoddy urban planning of Mumbai.

The purple bigger portion is 30 acres and the carved out light yellow portion is 8 acres.

The purple bigger portion is 30 acres and the carved out light yellow portion is 8 acres.

The tall skyscrapers correspond to the yellow potion in the GE map

The tall skyscrapers correspond to the yellow potion in the GE map. The roof top next to it is the Metro Yard.


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