In my opinion, one of the most important environmental issues confronting the Western Suburbs is the quality of air and the experience of the public realm—walking or driving on the roads and streets. Today this is a most jarring and unhealthy experience in what is known as the suburbs but in essence this is where the bulk of Mumbai resides.
I am using the term 'island city'— most of it developed in the pre-independence era—as a benchmark for comparison. In the island city 2-3 metre wide footpaths exist in most places; there is good tree cover; dust management is good and it is a pleasure walking around. In contrast, almost the entire area between Bandra and Dahisar is woefully short of good pavements, the quality of civic work on the roads is bad, the roads are baking hot due to the absence of trees, there is garbage and the sides of the road have been gifted on a platter as a parking privilege of a few at the greater discomfort of the majority.
I like to take the examples of the Link Road in Andheri (W) and the busy stretch from Four Bungalows junction to Lokhandwala Circle. I could also speak about the whole Link Road stretching from Jogeshwari to Borivali and for hundreds of roads in North Mumbai. Can you walk from DN Nagar metro station to Laxmi Industrial Estate or even Star Mall? Why is the Indian Oil junction so bumpy, shabby and full of beggars and vandals? Why cannot school children walk to school and back home on well-designed footpaths in the area? Why is there so much dust and garbage and leaking sewage at your bus stop? People need to ask their elected representatives and the officials about why the BMC gives so much attention to areas where not even one fourth of Mumbai's population resides and shows so much neglect where most people reside?
The writer is an environmental activist, founder of Walking Project and research fellow at Observer Research Foundation, Mumbai