Table of Contents
The key to stimulating economic growth, reducing poverty and promoting sustainable development in a city, is a stable and effective transportation system. Mumbai, contributes 6.16% of India’s total GDP. It has an established transport system, comprising roadways, railways, airways and waterways, connecting the commercial hub with other metropolitan regions, cities, and districts. The dominant transit mode being roadways, Mumbai connects with five national highways and operates on three railway networks, the Central, Western and Harbour lines.
However, the growing population of this city is rendering the present-day infrastructure facilities inadequate. The city is experiencing transport and communication-related issues considering the increasing vehicular population and subsequent traffic congestion. The most significant and most convenient civil transportation, the local suburban trains, also show a congested face, affecting the city’s image. A well-coordinated inland waterways network could bring a fundamental transformation in the strategic scenario of the city.
The importance of waterways
The National Waterways Bill has been an excellent development for the maritime industry. It opens the road for establishing 106 national waterways, spread across 15,000 kilometres, covering 24 states and two union territories. This Bill will significantly boost the waterway cargo transport industry in India and its neighbouring countries.
The Maharashtra government has been promoting the utilisation of waterways around Mumbai, Thane and Navi Mumbai for water transport. These waterways bring a wide variety of benefits in terms of economic, infrastructure and sustainable development, as Mumbai brings in 4,60,000 new citizens annually, which is about 1,00,000 families, who require 1,00,000 dwellings.
See also: Everything you need to know about the Mumbai Metro
The city’s inland waterways will connect Mumbai with its metropolitan regions, such as Navi Mumbai, which spans over 6,500 sq kms. Such connectivity benefits the daily commuters, by reducing the travel time from three hours to 45 minutes. It also makes the MMR more workable and convenient for living. This would cause decongestion of roads, as it will divert the traffic to these waterways. Navi Mumbai has already been establishing itself as a commercial hub. With ease in transportation, people will prefer to settle in the MMR, as it is more open, well ventilated and affordable than the city, thus, diverting and balancing Mumbai’s increasing populace.
Waterway transport systems: Advantages and challenges
One of the few features of water transport is that it entails low cost, carrying large amounts of cargo with significantly less fuel, is environment friendly, less time-consuming and safer than other modes of transportation, especially road.
Nevertheless, some of the challenges in terms of waterway transport, is that it requires regular capital infusion for maintenance. In dry summers, it may become inoperable as rivers become dry. Another obstacle may be the presence of low bridges in the path. The government needs to offer solutions for better connectivity in the country. A holistic approach is required to ensure efficient integration of inland waterways with road and rail transport networks.
The future of waterways in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region
The Maharashtra government has been planning several waterways projects. The 17-km Bandra-Versova Sea Link project under Maharashtra Road Development Corporation (MRDC) has already begun. A four-lane flyover from the Bandra-Worli Sea Link to the Sewri-Nhava Sheva Trans-harbour link is under construction. The 21.8-km MTHL project, implemented by the MMRDA, once completed, will be the longest sea bridge in India. The Thane Coastal Road Project under the Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) is also in progress. This Coastal Road will connect Kharegaon to Gaimukh. To boost the transportation system of Maharashtra, the Maharashtra Maritime Board is promoting ROPAX routes in Nerul, Karanja, Mora and Rewas. These roll-on-roll-off services connect Mumbai with its major districts, from Mumbai via Navi Mumbai to Alibaug in the Konkan region. Currently, the ROPAX ferry service from Bhaucha Dhakka to Mandwa (Alibag) is said to have reduced travel time by about two to three hours. Such waterway developments in the island city are expected to reduce travel time and boost growth of its expanded metropolitan region.
Citizens’ socio-economic well-being will undoubtedly increase from such developments. Commuters will not only benefit in terms of reduction in commute time but also by saving on fuel costs. This development will also encourage builders and other entrepreneurs to establish their businesses in metropolitan areas. The MMR has the potential to become a successful smart city, with well-maintained open spaces, providing sufficient ventilation, which is becoming increasingly vital for improved quality of life.
(The writer is CEO, Adhiraj Constructions Pvt Ltd)