The Vikhroli-Ghatkopar-Vidyavihar stretch,which falls under N Ward,is among the few areas in Mumbai that have witnessed rapid redevelopment in the past few years. Since 2007,this stretch on the eastern suburb has witnessed unprecedented infrastructure development,including residential complexes and retail establishments.
However,residents often complain that infrastructure development in N Ward does not match the pace of redevelopment. They say the main roads are choked with uncontrollable traffic and encroachments have taken up the open spaces in the area.
Major part of the ward lies in the centre of Mumbai and provides easy access to all other parts of the city. The Agra Road,officially called Eastern Express Highway,connects the area to Thane,Dadar,Chembur and Vashi. It is well connected by LBS Road on its western part,which connects it to Bandra,Jogeshwari,Goregaon and other western suburbs. Spread across 25.96 sq km,the ward has a total population of 6.15 lakh.
Once a major industrial and commercial belt,the LBS Road now boasts of luxurious residential projects that have come up in a span of over five years. The road stretches from Ghatkopar West to Vikhroli and is rapidly turning into a residential area after the industrial establishments made way for big projects and also one of the biggest malls in the city R-City mall.
The locals blame the lack of foresight and poor planning of the civic body as well as the state government for the traffic snarls,congestion and encroachments in the area. This area lacks a proper infrastructure planning. Redevelopment has taken place without proper groundwork and has messed up the entire locality. Instead of improving the area,it has increased our problems, said Gaurang Parekh,resident of Ghatkopar West.
Parekh added,The station road in Ghatkopar has become a nightmare. The work for the Metro corridor (Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar) has raised many problems in the form of excruciating snarls. Adding to our woes are encroachments and illegal parking.
Many old residential buildings in Cama Lane,MG Road,Garodia Nagar,Pant Nagar and Nathpai Nagar have been torn down and replaced with highrises. However,the roads in these localities have not been widened. The consequences are bottlenecks that can take hours to clear.
The area surrounding Ghatkopar station has always been a problem spot and unauthorised hawkers near the station is another issue that demands a prompt solution. However,putting a stop to these encroachments is the biggest challenge here, said Pramod Khedkar,N Ward officer. We are conducting drives to evacuate hawkers almost daily,but they return the same day soon after we leave. Furthermore,the road widening is carried out as per the Development Plan and not as per the demands of the residents. As far as bottlenecks on LBS Road are concerned,the plan to widen it is in the pipeline and the work will begin only after the elections. We have been able to fix drainage related problems almost everywhere in the ward in the last five years, Khedkar added.
Residents allege that the civic body has not implemented any redevelopment norms for roads. If there is a 20-floor tower and its adjacent road remains narrow,it will create traffic and parking issues. At the same time,hawkers encroach on the pavements and roadsides,blocking traffic and adding to the mess. There are no pavements from Rajawadi to the beginning of LBS Road as shops have come up on them. We have complained several times to the ward offices and corporators,but the scenario has just worsened in the last five years, said Jyotindra Dave,social activist from Ghatkopar West and trustee of Ghatkopar Brahmin Samaj.
Localities like Kirol Village,Narayan Nagar and Damodar Park in Ghatkopar (West) need a proper sewage disposal system,residents say,as it suffers regular waterlogging during monsoons.
Another major problem in the area is the slum settlements on the hillocks that lead to landslides every monsoon. It is a continuous stretch of slum settlements from Kajupada,Park Site and Surya Nagar on the Ghatkopar-Vikhroli road which curves towards Powai,ending at the IIT-Bombay,Powai market area. The slum population of 4.32 lakh is almost 70 per cent of the total population in the ward.
Out of the total 156 landslide-prone areas identified by BMC in 2011,N Ward topped the list with 43 areas in Vikhroli and Ghatkopar.
The ward is dominated by the Shiv Sena and BJP,with five out of the 12 corporators from Shiv Sena and three from BJP. This time BJP corporator Pravin Chheda will be contesting from Congress,whereas Congress corporator Suresh Golatkar will be contesting from BJP. With two of these heavyweight corporators from the area defecting to rival parties,the fight for the seats will be something to watch out for.