Commuters taking buses along the Eastern Freeway are likely to have a smooth ride soon, as the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) proposes to start a dedicated bus corridor on the stretch this year. “We are going to start a dedicated bus corridor on the Eastern Freeway. Since it doesn’t have much traffic, we can experiment there. It will be done sometime this year,” said Pravin Darade, the Additional Metropolitan Commissioner, MMRDA.
The 16.8 km Eastern Freeway connects P D’Mello Road and the Eastern Express Highway at Ghatkopar.
Speaking at a panel discussion on “Environment and Development in the Urban Jungle” organised by the Department of Public Policy of St Xavier’s College, Darade, said the corridor can also be used by emergency vehicles like ambulances. Talking about the Western Express Highway, he said: “The metro construction on the highway is already taking up two lanes. We cannot take away one more for a bus corridor at this point. Once the two metro constructions are complete in the western suburbs in 2019, we can start on the Western Express Highway.”
Stalin Dayanand, director of an NGO, Vanashakti, said: “The bus lanes should be a priority as they will change the way Mumbai travels.”
Speaking on other infrastructure projects in the city Darade said: “We will have ropeways connecting Neral-Matheran, Vashi-Ghatkopar and Borivali-Thane. We have submitted proposals to the environment ministry for clearances.”
But Stalin raised objections saying: “This is not sustainable development. After the eastern waterfronts were taken up for development work, the flamingos only have the Thane creek now. If ropeways are going across it then they will have no space to go. We will fight tooth and nail against the proposal.”
Also on the panel was Dr Nandini Deshmukh, a marine biologist who spoke against the construction of the Chhatrapati Shivaji statue on the Arabian Sea. “The construction will destroy the micro organisms there. There are millions of marine organisms that we cannot see. All these will be penalised by the statue. This will in turn crush the food chain affecting even fishing activities. Instead, they can convert the around 300 forts in Maharashtra to monuments. They will improve tourism in the state and increase rural employment as well. This will not require much funds also,” she said.
Darade responded with assurances that all steps would be taken by the government to ensure that least damage is caused to the environment through the construction.