Skywalks Sprout in Mumbai

The streets of Mumbai are packed with pedestrians. With few sidewalks and little room for the growing masses of walkers, city officials are looking to beat the pedestrian congestion by building overhead "skywalks" to bring people above the street.

"Most streets here have no footpaths. The sidewalks that do exist are bursting from a gridlock of walkers, street vendors and squatters. The scrum has become even pushier recently as hundreds of thousands migrate to this city of nearly 18 million people for jobs created by its economic expansion. Success has also led to an unprecedented number of cars and motorcycles on the road.

To lift the pedestrians that power this city above the fray, Mumbai is building more than 50 elevated walkways. The skywalks will sprout from train stations across the city and snake over the traffic for up to two miles to create a pedestrian express lane."

The first skywalk was finished last years, and officials say demand is rising. More than 60% of trips made within the city are by foot.

Full Story: Packed Streets Have a City of Walkers Looking Skyward for Answers



Mumbai Builds miles of Elevated Skywalks

Why are the streets in the crowded mega city of Mumbai running out of space for pedestrians? Most street footpaths are taken over by vendors and squatters. Hence the root cause of the problem of non- availability of the sidewalks for the purpose for which those were built is their takeover by 1. hawkers, 2.squatters, 3 encroachment by the shops lining the streets. Evidently it is the unwillingness of the local government to remove them, obviously for political reasons, that the problem exists. So the wily politician with willing cooperation from the Bureaucrats and Planners has turned this ‘threat’ to traffic into an opportunity! The Solution: Build skywalks that cost billions and bring in at least 20% back to the powers that be by way of kickbacks!
Mumbai is building more than 50 elevated walkways. There is no cost-benefit analysis made for any of them! The only analysis made is how much the kickbacks from the investment in them will be! The photograph clearly shows the scant traffic on the skywalk. Why? Because apart from no cost-benefit analysis no feasibility report or need analysis is made, The widening of certain roads with IBRD credit under MUTP (Mumbai Urban Transport Project) I involved removal and resettlement of hundreds of slum dwellers/hutments involving a resettlement programme (part of which I oversaw as a World Bank Consultant) was undertaken after thorough studies that established the NEED for widening on the basis of traffic surveys. But for the skywalks no such impediment was encountered because those are being built NOT because they are needed BUT because they CAN be built to bring in huge kickbacks for the Politicians! Therefore Ashok Ravat, head of the Mahim Skywalk Protest Committee, has rightly said, whether you have skywalks or not, the problems will remain the same.
Why is the obvious solution of widening the sidewalks just isn't an option? It is eminently possible if 1. the street vendors occupying the space are allowed to be resettled within the boundaries of the adjoining properties (a study prepared by me 6 years back about how it could be done is gathering dust some where in the archives of the local authority), 2. the vehicles parked along the streets are packed off in vertical parking lots and all illegal encroachments by the roadside commercial establishment are removed.
The projected bill for the 50-plus skywalks is around $300 million. The city just cannot expect to recover most of that cost by selling advertising space on them. It will ultimately resort to auctioning “vendor stalls” on these skywalks and thus create multilevel hawker plazas! Engineering difficulties and neighborhood opposition have blocked many planned skywalks and could stop more. But the city planners will continue building them because the returns from the kickbacks by undertaking costly capital works are too lucrative to abandon! I cannot but repeat my statement that has now become an axiom, “ projects in Mumbai are undertaken for their propensity to generate kickbacks for the Politicians, Bureaucrats and Planners and any benefit accruing to the populace is incidental and unintended!”

Prakash M. Apte
Urban Development Consultant

Kickbacks are a fact, but....

I agree with Apte's comment that it is more likely kickbacks, rather than sound planning that went into these skywalks, but they are a bit different from the lame ones in Delhi, which just connect one site of the road to another, which is a really poor way of urging people to cross the road. The Mumbai skywalk criss-crossing the city to connect stations to work centers re at least addressing a genuine need. It is unfortunate that they haven't been vetted financials, and that they really haven't been designed for Vendors, so if (more likely0 when we have vendors moving on them, we are going to run into trouble of not just crowding the walk, but also managing cleanliness and waste management on them. My guess is they will eventually have a pile of trash snaking along the bottom. I can see skywalks working where the connect future over head metro stations to work centers and are designed with vendors in mind.

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