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Saturday, January 22, 2022

Living with the pandemic

After a bruising 2021, and despite the arrival of Omicron, here's looking forward to 2022.

By: Express News Service | Mumbai |
January 1, 2022 1:11:42 am
The new Covid variant will dominate the first few months of 2022. The beginnings of the third wave have already sobered Mumbaikars. New restrictions are in the air. Masks and hand hygiene are the easiest way to beat the infection. And though there are breakout infections, it is better to be vaccinated than not (File)

The restrictions on gatherings on Mumbai’s seafront promenades in the New Year weekend are a clue to 2022 — the pandemic will begin its third year in February. The jury is still out on whether the Omicron variant will lead to the petering out of Covid-19, or if it is just another in a series of variants, each bringing its own wave. For now, though, it means people will have to adjust their lives around the pandemic, just as they did to the new and constantly changing rules of air travel after 9/11. Think of face masks, social distancing, and vaccines as the anti-hijack and anti-terror measures of the pandemic. They are here to stay in the post-COVID era (whenever that happens, by whatever metric) as are Zoom meetings and hybrid teaching even though offices, schools and colleges reopen.

A sure sign that life has to go on is that work on mega infrastructure projects in Mumbai has continued apace over the last two years after a brief suspension at the start of the pandemic in 2020. These big public works have changed the face of the city through two Covid waves and lockdowns, and will continue to do so in 2022 too, one dig at a time.

This may be the year when Mumbaikars begin to embrace more non-fossil fuel means of public and private transport. BEST has done well to flag the urgent need to switch to clean public transport. Its electric buses are humming along on a few routes.
Unusual weather events have become more frequent in Mumbai. If BMC gets its act together, “Mumbai paralysed on Day 1 of monsoon” need not be the headline this year too.

After a bruising 2021, and despite the arrival of Omicron, here’s looking forward to 2022.

BMC elections: The country’s richest municipal corporation, which provides municipal services to the 1.28 crore residents of the megapolis of Mumbai, will be going to polls to elect 236 corporators who act as facilitators between citizens and administrators. A high-voltage campaign is expected in the run-up to the elections, with the BJP launching an all-out offensive to dislodge the Shiv Sena from its perch as the dominant force in the corporation, which it has been controlling for three decades.

2 more train lines on Thane Diva stretch: The Railways will add to their local train network with a fifth and sixth line between Thane and Diva railway stations, which will greatly improve the commute on Central Railways. The project will be completed in 2022 and will separate suburban and express train lines. Thane-Diva is the busiest section of the suburban network of Central Line and has only four existing lines, fewer than the six-eight lines in some other places.

Two new metro lines for Mumbai: Nearly eight years after Mumbai got its first metro service, residents of Mumbai will have access to two new metro lines in 2022. Line 7 will be opened partially to connect Aarey to Dahisar East, while line 2A will be opened partially to connect Dahisar to Dhanukarwadi. But will the two lines ease congestion on the Western Express Highway and lighten the burden on the suburban train system? That is the million-dollar question.

Asiatic Lions: After seven years, Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan and Zoo, popularly known as Byculla zoo, is set to welcome two pairs of Asiatic lions in 2022. The last surviving lioness of the zoo was Jimmy, the 16-year-old African-Asiatic hybrid, who died in 2014 due to prolonged illness. The zoo will get the pair of Asiatic lions from Sakkarbaug Zoological Park in Junagadh and Kamla Nehru Prani Sangrahalaya in Indore. In exchange, it will give two pairs of zebras to these zoos.

Vaccination for children, booster doses : Nearly 9 lakh children between the age of 15-18 years will be eligible for Covid -19 vaccination in Mumbai. Healthcare and frontline workers along with citizens above the age of 60 with co-morbidities will be administered a booster dose — called a “precaution dose” — from January 10. The government is also expected to roll out a policy on booster doses, which will make everyone eligible for the precaution doses.

MAMI festival: The city’s cinephiles missed their annual week-long treat of the best of cinema in 2019 and 2020 as Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival was cancelled due to the pandemic. Bringing much cheer to them, “tentative dates” for a hybrid festival from March 11 to 15 in 2022 were announced by the festival team. Festival officials invited entries from filmmakers and the last date of submission was December 10. One of the most-awaited events of Mumbai, the film festival is organised by Mumbai Academy of Moving Image (MAMI) and actor-producer Priyanka Chopra Jonas took over as the new chairperson of Jio MAMI in August 2021. Under a new initiative, ‘Jio MAMI 2.0’, the academy has resumed hosting movie screenings as part of its Year Round Programme and masterclasses.

MORE AC TRAINS: After the Western Railway introduced AC locals, the New Year will see more AC local trains being introduced in Mumbai’s Central Railway network between Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT), Karjat, Kasara and Khopoli railway station. Currently, there are only four local trains on the Central and Harbour lines and due to constraints of tracks/lines on the main line of CR, there are only 10 services/trips of the AC local trains.

Water transport service

One of the most environmentally friendly modes of transport will receive a massive fillip with the beginning of a water taxi off Mumbai’s eastern coast connecting South Mumbai to Navi Mumbai. The water taxi service between Belapur in Navi Mumbai and the domestic terminal at Ferry Wharf in Mumbai will reduce the travel time between the two cities from 75-80 minutes by road or train to just 45 minutes.

Electric vehicles

From January 1, 2022, only electric vehicles (EV) will be procured for government, semi-government offices and urban local bodies in Maharashtra. And from April 1, 2022, only EVs will be hired for government purposes. The decision is part of the Maharashtra government’s ‘Electric Vehicle Policy-2021’ introduced for climate change measures.

New heads of police

Maharashtra will have a new DGP and Mumbai a new police commissioner this year. The current acting DGP Sanjay Pandey retires in June, while the incumbent Mumbai Police chief Hemant Nagrale retires in October.

Football Women’s Asian Cup

The 12-nation Women’s Asian Cup will be held from January 20 to February 6 at three venues, Andheri Sports Complex, DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai and Pune’s Balewadi Sports Complex. The continental football championship assumes huge significance as this will be the final qualifying tournament for the Asian teams to make the cut for the 2023 World Cup. India is placed in Group A along with China, Iran and Chinese Taipei, and will begin their campaign against Iran on January 20 at the DY Patil Stadium, which will also host the final. The 2023 World Cup co-hosts Australia, South Korea and defending champions Japan are some of the other teams that will take part in this competition.

Climate Action Plan

Amid warnings of climate change leading to extreme weather events in the city, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), will become the first municipal corporation in the country to launch a ‘Climate Action Plan’ in 2022. In the process for over four months, the plan talks about capacity building by increasing human resources for climate change-related actions, more urban greening, initiatives like solar panels and electric vehicles. The draft MCAP was submitted before C40 cities, a global network of cities working on climate change risks. Once the review is completed, the final plan will be put up in the public domain.

Doppler Radar

Mumbai is all set to get a second C-Band Doppler Radar in Jogeshwari this year. Delayed because of Covid-related restrictions, the C-band radar will have a range of 250-300 km and cover the entire Mumbai, North Konkan and part of the Arabian Sea. Doppler radars of varying frequencies — S-band, C-band and X-band — are commonly used by the India Meteorological Department (IMD) to detect and track the movement of weather systems, cloud bands and gauge rainfall. Currently, Mumbai has one Doppler Radar atop its office in Colaba, which can carry out weather surveillance up to 450-500 km radius.

Cultural connections

Two of the city’s prime art and culture hubs, Prithvi Theatre and the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA), have come up with well-curated shows for 2022. They tried to stay connected with the audience through streaming platforms and video interaction services during the lockdowns. Yet, the excitement over physical shows on their stages is unmissable in spite of the safety protocols. One of the main attractions on Prithvi Theatre’s calendar will be the shows by Adishakti Theatre Arts, which celebrates its 40th anniversary, from January 11 to 16.

Back on stage

One of India’s prominent arts and theatre companies, Pondicherry-based Adishakti will bring some of their long-running plays as well as their newest production Bhoomi, written and directed by Vinay Kumar. The NCPA programming is diverse and they are bringing back a number of their popular events. Eminent Carnatic vocalist TM Krishna will take the centrestage at Tata Theatre of the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) as part of ‘Citi-NCPA Aadi Anant: From Here to Eternity’ on January 8. Pratibimb, a festival of Marathi plays, returns to NCPA with shows scheduled on January 21 to 23.

Streaming success

As uncertainties prevail over cinema theatres remaining open, new shows and movies will head to streaming video service platforms for their premiere in the New Year. On January 25, Shakun Batra-directed Gehraiyaan will mark the return of Deepika Padukone on screen after two years, when the film releases on Amazon Prime Video. After the release of the Shahid Kapoor-starrer Jersey on December 31 was cancelled due to the spike in Covid cases, the movie is reported to be considering an OTT release. Several big-ticket movies are expected to follow suit. Meanwhile, OTTs have announced an exciting line-up for 2022. Upcoming movies including the Aakash Bhatia-directed Looop Lapeta, Anvitaa Dutt-directed Qala, and Vishal Bhardwaj-directed Khufiya are scheduled for Netflix release. Netflix also plans to release the second season of popular web-shows such as Mismatched, Masaba Masaba, and She.

MUMBAI GALLERY WEEKEND

Mumbai Gallery Weekend (MGW) is set for January, with galleries across the city opening new solo and group shows. Catch works by Louise Despont, Chetnaa, Sosa Joseph, Santanu Hazarika, Vaishali S and more at this four-day event (January 13 to 16) featuring more than 20 art establishments. This edition will also see a community exhibition and artists-in-residence programme at Somaiya Vidyavihar University, titled Immerse, as a collateral event. Other collateral events include works by Sahej Rahal at the Jehangir Nicholson Art Foundation, Raghu Rai at Piramal Art Gallery, and Warli artists Mayur and Tushar Vayeda at Artisans’ Centre.

Photographs: Tashi Tobgyal, Pradip Das, Narendra Vaskar, Ganesh Shirsekar, Pavan Khengre, Deepak Joshi

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