Points made during deposition on Coast Road Project in Mumbai

Independent Peoples Tribunal for Environment organised a Public Hearing on Mumbai Coast Road. The public notice for the same is at the end of my deposition.

Below are the points I submitted in my written deposition. I made a separate set of points in my spoken deposition, which is found in this presentation.

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Deposition before Commissioners by Rishi Aggarwal
Friday, 9th October, 2015
Mumbai
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I would like to place the following points on record for the consideration of the Commissioners with regards to my objection to the coastal road project proposed by the MCGM and supported by the state and national governments. The project in my opinion is symptomatic of bad governance and my points below argue against the project on governance grounds.

I am an environmental and civic issues activist for the past 15 years and have been closely involved with impacting numerous issues which would lead to a better quality of life in Mumbai. I take keen interest and involve myself on a continuous basis with aspects related to the good governance of Mumbai. I have been opposing the coast road since early 2011 when it was first proposed and have been expressed my views at numerous governmental and public forums till now.

I am attaching two different letters sent by me regarding the same and also a petition which I started in 2013 against the project. Some key points are below

Points for deposition

1. It pains me that a few politicians have chosen in their wisdom to call the coast road project as one of national importance. The lifeline of Mumbai, the suburban railway network carries 8 million people daily, it is a global marvel. Almost ten people lose their lives daily on this network. I would imagine that a project of national importance would be to find a solution to put a complete stop to these deaths. This would confirm with the tenets of good governance. The coastal road project will make absolutely no difference to the conditions on the suburban system or to saving the lives of those who die on it every day.

As per estimates the coastal road would have a capacity of transporting a maximum of 300,000 people every day (with a lot of doubt) as compared to the 8 million on the suburban system. The coastal road project has been projected to cost Rs. 13,000 crore in 2015 costs. A reasonable level of improvements in various aspects of the suburban system would cost less than Rs. 1000 crores from what I gather through various readings in the papers and official reports.

So it is a situation where there is enormous enthusiasm in the government to spend Rs. 13000 crores on transporting 300,000 people daily but almost zero enthusiasm in spending Rs. 1000 crores on improving a system which is transporting 8 million people daily. How can this be justified on a good governance parameter? Would not a government interested in delivering good governance have a balanced approach?

2. The National Urban Transport Policy 2006 by the Government of India explicitly states that the focus and priority of transport policies and investments in Indian cities should be to move people not cars. For a decade and more we have only seen a violation of that policy in Mumbai. Having received no resistance MCGM became brazen and has leapfrogged but not in the way the NUTP would expect.

3. The land use and mobility patter in Mumbai has undergone a drastic change in the past three decades. A large number of people who work in Greater Mumbai need not be staying within. These are people staying with other municipal corporations within the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR). Mobility, residence and work patterns increasingly have an inter-regional pattern and our transport planning has not kept pace with the requirements. Multi-modal integration is still not convenient in the region. For these purposes development of functional Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority (UMTA) has been suggested for Mumbai for very long. Robust institutions as we know are the fundamental tenet of good governance.

Again the government has shown abysmal commitment to establish an UMTA for MMR. Enthusiasm for the coast road by releasing full page advertisements, carpeting the city skyline with self-congratulatory messages on hoardings has been there for all to see. The same politicians and administration shows a zero concern for addressing the day to day mobility challenges faced by millions in the region.

4. The coastal road proponent – the MCGM – is offering the coastal road project as a solution to the traffic congestion being faced in Mumbai. A city the size of Mumbai and with intentions of becoming world class does not see a functional and well equipped transport and traffic planning cell within itself. It is unimaginable a megapolis of this size in the developed world to not have a well functioning traffic and transport planning cell in its local self government.

The coastal road report alludes to the presence of similar roads in developed countries and uses them to build a case for the coastal road. But what about a traffic cell, which is a fundamental requirement if you want to handle traffic congestion? Why no interest in having a traffic cell? All of these world class cities have world class traffic monitoring departments staffed with the best trained staff and with budgets and facilities to match. There is an unmistaken sincerity in the way some of these global cities are governed, which is woefully missing from the governance of Mumbai.

Is the coast road a case of having cake when we do not even have bread?

End of deposition

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Public Notice about the Public Hearing

INDEPENDENT PEOPLE’S TRIBUNAL ON ENVIRONMENT
Public Hearing on Mumbai Coast Road

Organiser: Human Rights Law Network, Mumbai

Date: Friday, 9 October 2015.

Registration: 9.30 am; Tribunal hearings commence: 10am

Venue: St Paul’s Institute of Communication Education (SPICE)

The Independent People’s Tribunal on Environment aims to conduct fair and credible investigations focusing on issues concerning human rights and environmental justice and give voice to the struggles of grassroots organizations and affected communities.

We are setting up a Public Hearing to deliberate the feasibility of the proposed highway on the Rs 12,000 crore, 35-km long Coast Road on the western sea front of Mumbai that will connect Kandivali to Nariman Point on Friday October 9, from 10 AM to 6 PM.

At the Public hearing persons from various backgrounds ranging from the fishing communities, architects, town planners, governance, environmentalists and experts will be deposing on the effects of the coast road on the environment, fishing communities and on the financial viability of the project.

Justice (Retd.) Hosbet Suresh, former Bombay High Court Judge; D.M. Sukthankar and Jamsheed Kanga (former Municipal Commissioners); D.T. Joseph (former Urban Development Secretary); B.C. Khatua, Director of the Mumbai Transformation Support Unit (MTSU, a parastatal body); Gerson da Cunha, Action for Governance & Networking in India (AGNI); Shirish Patel, civil engineer and one of the three proponents of Navi Mumbai; Shabana Azmi, actor and activist; Prof V. Subramanyan, former IIT-Mumbai geologist; Sunil Shanbag, theatre director; Rambhau Patil, President, Maharashtra Machhimar Kruti Samiti; Dr Rakesh Kumar, Chief Scientist, in charge of National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) in Mumbai; Ajit Ranade, economist, Nikhil Wagle, journalist, Major General S. C. N. Jattar, President, Nagrik Chetna Manch and Meenakshi Menon, media and communications expert and founder of Vanashakti NGO, are Commissioners.

Address: Third Floor, St Paul’s Institute of Communication Education (SPICE), TPS III, Near Tawa Restaurant, Opp. Duruelo Convent High School, Road Number 24, Bandra (West), Mumbai – 400050
Phone:022 2643 5709

The event is open to the public, who can also send written submissions to the Commissioners during the day’s proceedings.

We look forward to full coverage by the print and electronic media.
A PRESS CONFERENCE WILL BE HELD AT 1.30PM ACROSS THE HALL ON THE 3RD FLOOR
Anne Thomas Panicker,
Human Rights Law Network (HRLN),
First Floor, Jalaram Krupa, Janmabhoomi Marg, Fort, Mumbai – 400001
Tel: +91-22-2282 0109/2282 0192; 98924 61119 Email: mumbai@hrln.org

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