Event ReportsPublished on Apr 05, 2019
What Mumbai needs to do to emerge as Indian Ocean Capital
In September 2016, a group of professionals from organisations including the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM), Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), and City Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO), gathered in a closed room for a six-day workshop on Metropolitan Intelligence. Keeping in mind the primary objective, which was sustainable urbanisation, they were each asked to communicate their priorities for the future, develop strategies for implementation, and answer the cardinal question: “What do I want Mumbai to be when she grows up?” This same question was posed by internationally-renowned urban consultant and former mayor of Madrid’s Central District Pedro Ortiz posed to an audience comprised of students and faculty at his talk that envisioned Mumbai as the Capital of the Indian Ocean and explored ways how it can achieve that status at the Rachana Sansad Academy of Architecture on 28 March 2019. An architect by profession, Ortiz is a Senior Consultant on Metropolitan Management and Planning for leading international governmental organizations like the UN, EU, World Bank, among others. He is renowned for his work on the Metropolitan Plan, and, more recently, his book, “The Art of Shaping the Metropolis”. Ortiz began his presentation with a clear message – in order to plan a metropolis, being an architect is not enough. Successful urban planning, he said, requires one to have a deep understanding of areas like economics, sociology, and politics as well. He urged students to extend their knowledge beyond just the classroom, and to purposefully educate themselves in addition to what is taught to them. Ortiz showed how extensive metropolitan as well as national structural lines, both reticular and diagonal, join in the Mumbai peninsula, creating the city’s backbone. The roads and railway routes of Mumbai, he explained, trail either parallel or perpendicular to the coastline. In such a linear geography, it is beneficial for metropolises to adopt a reticular poly-nuclear system that provides crisscross connectivity rather than a radial orbital one with the central business district in the city in the middle of concentric circles provided by ring roads. The lack of such connectivity has resulted in overly congestive road layouts in Mumbai. He highlighted that the judicious integration of transport systems forms an essential part of good metropolitan planning. Mumbai’s local rail network, the busiest commuter train system in the world, boasts an alarming figure of 7.5 million commuters daily. Line 3 of the Mumbai Metro, the city’s first underground metro line, can be expected to divert at least some of this crowd when it is commissioned in 2022. The introduction of new, feasible transport systems will definitely relieve Mumbai’s increasingly congested railway networks, but not nearly in proportion to its mammoth rate of growth. Giving an account of the growth of population in Mumbai Metropolitan Region, Ortiz said that the city needs an additional 10 square km of land and nearly 100,000 dwellings to cope with its rising population. And yet, in terms of economic development, Mumbai is growing at a meagre 2-3 percent per annum. Pune, in contrast, has an annual growth rate of 10-11 percent, an achievement that should be expected of the nation’s financial capital. One cannot stop the rural population from migrating to urban areas, a practice that has seen an enormous surge in recent years. One can, however, take measures to ensure that this does not impede metropolitan growth. The development of Navi Mumbai proved to be enormously effective in relieving the main city of the pressure resulting from an increasingly dense population. Ortiz suggested that Mumbai must urgently develop the Khargar Valley – a significant area of land adjacent to the current Navi Mumbai – a project he termed “Navi Navi Mumbai.” This development towards the west is inevitable given the fact that Navi Mumbai is soon slated to have Mumbai’s second international airport. He also put forth the need to create a Saraswati Valley – a valley of knowledge – a knowledge and IT park, like the Silicon Valley, in the adjoining area. He also emphasised on the importance of having industries and factories near highways and peripheral areas, and not in the center of the city. This is primarily to avoid the entry of heavy loaded trucks into the main city area, which would not only pose unnecessary danger to citizens, but also contribute to an increase in traffic in an already congested city. Ortiz then went on to talk about one of the most pressing issues of modern times, and one that is often shoved under the carpet when it comes to matters of development. The Paris Agreement, a product of the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, came with the first ever legally-binding deal to try and keep the increase in global average temperature well under two degrees Celsius. He reinforced the fact that climate change is real, and it is happening whether we choose to believe in it or not. Mumbai, owing to its maritime location, is particularly vulnerable to the effects of rising sea levels. He explained that in the urban context, there are only three methods of dealing with climate change – confrontation, adaptation, or running away. In Mumbai’s case, strategically adapting to rising global temperatures seems to be the only viable option, he pointed out. In a listing of the GDP of the top 100 nations and metropolises worldwide, Mumbai ranks at a pitiful 76, when, given its position, Pedro estimated it should ideally be in the top grouping. The GDP of a country is largely reliant on the economic successes of its major metropolises, and if India intends to be a dominant world power, it must focus on tactfully developing its metropolises – not just in terms of boosting economic growth, but through adding value via steady increase in productivity. Mumbai, with its natural locational advantage as India’s gateway coastal metropolis with natural access to the larger strategic expanse of the Indo-Pacific, has the potential to become the Capital of the Indian Ocean region, he concluded.
This report was prepared by Unnati Patel, Research Intern, Observer Research Foundation, Mumbai.
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