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Powai Residents on Mumbai Metro 6 – Underground or Overground

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The Mumbai Metro 6 is an upcoming rapid transit system which would serve Mumbai and a part of Thane. The system is designed to reduce traffic congestion in the city, and supplement the overcrowded Mumbai Suburban Railway network (local trains). It is being built and is expected to be fully operational by 2025. 9 lines are planned (1 successfully operational) and 3 new ones are proposed. All metro lines are elevated, except line 3 (Colaba-SEEPZ) which will be underground.

Mumbai Metro 6 is a 14.47 km long track which will consist of 13 stations. It will be an elevated corridor. It will connect Lokhandwala Complex in the western suburbs to Vikhroli and Kanjurmarg in the eastern suburbs, passing through Powai.

The line will consist of 13 stations starting from Swamy Samarth Nagar in Lokhandwala Complex to Vikhroli (East). It will have interchanges with Lines 2, 3, 4 and 7. The 13 stations are:

Swamy Samarth Nagar, Adarsh Nagar (line 2), Jogeshwari (West), Jogeshwari-Vikhroli Link Road (JVLR) (line 7), Shyam Nagar, Mahakali caves, SEEPZ village (line 3), Saki Vihar road, Rambaug, Powai lake, IIT Powai, Kanjurmarg (West) (line 4), Vikhroli (EEH)

Concerns of Powai Residents on Mumbai Metro 6

Please read the pamphlet before scrolling down
Please read the pamphlet before scrolling down

Boon over bane Mumbai Metro 6

Recently, the residents of Powai received this pamphlet along with their newspapers. This states the problems that the residents of Powai and JVLR might face because of the construction of the metro. The pamphlet suggests changes in the grade and route of metro 6.

In this article, I am going to make my case against these given suggestions, without any disrespect intended towards anyone. It is natural to have concerns and be sceptical about developmental projects. But I have clear reasons for why I am against these recommendations. These reasons are backed by research, common sense and opinionated justifications. The reasons and justifications are stated below.

1)Trust the Process

We must note that the metro planning has been going on for over a decade, perhaps over 15 years. This planning involves inspection of the busiest roads, the most crowded destinations, the direction of travel during different peak hours, surveying and groundwork, etc. The state authorities also require various permissions and clearances to acquire land and limit pollution. Only after expert consultation and full approval can they begin with the work of creating a speedy and efficient metro system.

We need to trust the authorities whom we have voted to power. We need to understand that they must have chosen a particular route keeping in mind the best interests of the public. I believe that they have planned it sufficiently and this is the best one of the 14,000,605 options that they possibly had. All chosen metro routes involve minimum environmental damage with maximum crowd carrying capacity. For once we must try to understand different aspects and not jump to conclusions based on possible short term inconveniences.

2) Why elevated and not underground?

Cost

Elevated metro bridges can be erected rapidly with minimal disruption of traffic below. Its construction cost is reasonably less and will be constructed in lesser time compared to underground metro. Underground metro will be 3-4 times more expensive to build. Elevated metro system has a lower construction cost and a lower running cost. Maintenance cost will be less because of lesser number of systems installed. Maintenance staff and equipment is also less in number. Moreover, excavation for underground construction costs a lot. Use of heavy and expensive machinery like Tunnel Boring Machines (TBM) is indispensable. Tunneling needs more clearances for land acquisition for the tracks and stations. Underground tunneling may lead to yearlong roadblocks. Redevelopment of buildings on top of the tunnel is very difficult. Underground metro construction will also lead to high levels of noise pollution. Citizens of South Bombay are already complaining of the incessant construction noises.

Since the metro was decided to run on alternating current, the underground tunnel here will have to be wider than the underground metros elsewhere. It will require more space. Energy consumption in elevated stations is significantly less because of low load of lighting and air conditioning system.

Mumbai metro, being a Public Private Partnership (PPP), sells slightly expensive tickets compared to Delhi metro, which is a government enterprise. Increasing construction cost will only lead to increase in ticket prices.

Geography

Metro 3 (Colaba-SEEPZ) is underground and suburban residents feel discriminated for not having one too. One of the residents explicitly said, ‘if South Bombay can have an underground metro, why can’t we?’ People living in Bandra, Khar, Santacruz, Juhu, Vile Parle and Powai have shown dissent towards having an elevated metro. According to me, the underground construction of metro 3 is also a bad idea. It may have its own good reasons. But it is important to consider the geography of Mumbai and how it was formed in the first place.

Mumbai is a city of 7 islands. A lot of the land in southern Mumbai is reclaimed land. This is one of the main reasons why having any underground metro could be risky. The suburban part of Mumbai used to be an island called Salsette. It may not have as much of reclaimed land, but the peninsular shape of Mumbai makes it equally vulnerable. The unpredictable monsoons and occasional floods would make underground travelling unsafe. The huge population density in the suburbs of Mumbai makes it impossible to have an underground metro here.

Because of reclaimed land, seasonal floods and Mumbai’s proximity to the sea, Mumbai still has high groundwater levels. Water will keep seeping in the ground and needs to be pumped out continuously. Because of these geographical reasons, underground metro is not the safest option we have. We can take the example of Japan to verify this case. Japan has an elaborate underground metro system in every major city except Hiroshima. This is because Hiroshima, like Mumbai, is situated in an estuary and contains a lot of reclaimed land. The Japanese implemented this very thought to avoid future possibilities of greater floods and other damages.

3) Addressing the concerns of the residents towards metro 6

Change in route

Specifically addressing the change in course as mentioned in the pamphlet, I think it is not a very good idea. It says that there should be an underground metro from Marol to LBS Marg- an extension of metro 3. Instead of the existing route, the metro goes from Marol through Saki Vihar, Chandivali and reaches LBS Mag from under the hill behind Hiranandani.

Recently, in a drone video we have seen the differences on either side of the same hill. Construction of a metro under that hill will lead to partial or complete destruction of that hill. It will also force a lot of people to relocate their shelters. This shows a negative impact on both the environment and the people. Relocation of people and destruction of the hill will only increase the visible parity between the rich and the poor. Only this time we will see the differences more clearly, without being separated by a hill.

This course leaves out preferred and commercially busy destinations of JVLR, IIT area, Jogeshwari and Lokhandwala. This also cuts the connectivity of line 6 with lines 2,3,4,7 and the Central and Western Railways. This change in course will result in huge losses to the state. A different route will also require additional expenses and environmental clearances.

The main problem with having this route is that it defeats the purpose of constructing a whole new transport system. The purpose of having a metro was to take the traffic off the roads. Diverting the route will not take the vehicles off JVLR. The original elevated metro will serve that purpose. It may slightly increase the traffic when it is being constructed, but it will definitely reduce the traffic once it is ready.

Harm to Powai Lake

The Powai Lake is absolutely safe whether the elevated metro is constructed or not. The BMC has made it clear that the lake is going to be thoroughly cleaned and made free of sewage. An 11 crore clean up and beautification project is announced and the BMC is in the process of appointing a contractor for the same. The BMC has also said that there will be a crocodile park. A total ban on fishing will be implemented to protect the reptiles and fish in the lake. Most of the sewage pipes entering Powai Lake have already been shut. Measures to control eutrophication are in full swing. There is also a plan to construct a huge garden along the pathways in the lake.

According to Ajoy Mehta, BMC Commissioner, the metro project will only delay the lake cleanup mission and not stop it. Regardless of the metro construction, Powai lake is in a bad state. And if the lake is a little more damaged before a complete revamp, it shouldn’t be much of a problem.

Conclusion on Mumbai Metro 6

In conclusion, I would just say that the elevated metro system is the best for this city. I am totally against having an underground metro system. Even an underground metro 3 doesn’t make sense to me, but I still hope that it is developed as planned.

Powai is finally getting a mainstream and quick mode of transport. We are getting our own metro! So instead of complaining about how it could be, we should appreciate that it is. The same doubts and concerns were raised during the construction of line 1. In spite of that we can see how much of a difference just 1 metro line has made. We can be optimistic and expect the same, or better, from line 6. If we trust the authorities to work things as planned, they will do it. So instead of being dug up for months, we can choose to soar.

Lastly, for all my suburban folks- it doesn’t matter if South Bombay has an underground metro and we don’t. Remember, they are going to be under us.

Disclaimer from the Publisher –

The views and opinion in this article are solely of the writer of this article. The Publication has not yet taken any stand on the issue. We have published the article to enable discussions on key public infrastructure issues. If you need to reach out with a diverse opinion you can email the publisher at manoj@powai.info

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