While roads in many parts of the city leave much to be desired with their craters and potholes, the civic body is going on overdrive to please tourists and the city’s financial and political elite, by opting to reconstruct Netaji Subhash Road, better known as the iconic Marine Drive - arguably one of the smoothest driveways in the city.
The city’s favourite landmark - known popularly as Queen’s Necklace - will soon be under construction, with BMC officials insisting that the picturesque seafacing 4.23-km-long stretch is in desperate need of reconcretisation. Experts, however, beg to differ, saying that the Rs 50 crore earmarked for the task ought to be poured into work on many other roads in the city that are crying out for some repair and concretisation.
The reconstruction was in the pipeline from 2012, and the BMC budget for the 2012-13 fiscal set aside Rs 36 crore for the project. However, nothing was done. This year’s budget more than compensates for the delay, having allotted a staggering Rs 50 crore for the work.
The stretch from Tambe Chowk near Walkeshwar Road to NCPA in the south is set to get a facelift. A consultant has been appointed by the BMC to study specialised techniques that can be adopted, perform a traffic simulation count, study the pavement design and storm water drains. A whopping Rs 5 crore has been set aside for the study itself. The BMC, however, is anticipating that issues will crop up when it comes to obtaining permission from the traffic department.
The plans for Marine Drive drew sharp criticism from several experts, who feel that it amounts to massive waste of limited financial resources. Former deputy municipal commissioner Prakash Sanglikar said, “There is no need to make this road on a priority basis. Redoing the whole construction is waste of public money, as there are several roads in the city that need construction on priority basis. It’s not like they are beautifying the stretch or making a new promenade, but redoing the whole work again.”
A deputy chief engineer with the BMC confirmed, “We will be redoing the whole of Netaji Subhash Road and have allotted sufficient fund for the same. The utilities will also be worked on - the drains need to be shifted and other utilities need to be placed properly. There is a need to remake this road, as the cracked panels can be seen, which doesn’t look good. Much will depend on the traffic authorities, as this is a high-security area. It would take time to get permission from the traffic CP for traffic diversions. We are expecting to start the work by October 1 this year.”
Laxman Vhatkar, director of projects and engineering, said, “This is an important road in terms of tourist attraction too, and it needs to be done on priority basis. We will soon be floating the tenders and the cracked panels and patches will disappear from the 70-year-old road. A provision of Rs 50 crore has been made in this year’s budget.”
Road expert Nandkumar Salvi said, “There is no need to put in so much of money, as there is no heavy traffic on the stretch. There are many other roads in the city where this kind of money can be poured in. There is no need of doing work with heavy asphalt. Why is the BMC appointing an outsider committee like the IIT to conduct a study, when it has its own STAC - the Standing Technical Advisory Committee? The BMC doesn’t know how to use its funds efficiently.
Why can’t the BMC give
priority to the roads that need construction and concretisation? These good roads can be repaired once we also start travelling on concretised roads across the city. The VVIP status of the road is the reason for the attention given to it by the BMC, whereas the people of the suburbs who also deserve good roads are neglected. - Anandini Thakoor, chairman, H-West federation
There are many other roads that need concretisation, so why give priority to Marine Drive road? It is in far better condition than LBS Marg or the Ambedkar Rd. This could be such a waste of public money. - G R Vora, Sion resident
The construction is required as this stretch, which was very smooth once, has become bumpy. We need the road back to how it was years ago. - Ashad Mehta, SoBo resident
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