Agitated over the construction of skywalks across the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), an activist had filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Bombay High Court against authorities like the Maharashtra State Road Development Corp Ltd (MSRDC), Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA), Maharashtra Government and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
MMRDA, which has planned 50 skywalks, or foot over-bridges, is keen on adding more to the number. It has allocated Rs6 billion for the skywalk project and there are proposals to have shopping plazas on some of the walkways as well.
According to the PIL, there is no justification for increase in the cost of construction of skywalks especially when the price of steel has gone down from about Rs48,000-Rs52,000 per tonne to Rs24,000-Rs 22,000 per tonne. The authorities have also reduced the width of the skywalks as no shops or hawkers are to be permitted on these constructions.
The design of skywalks may have to be revised as the width of the skywalks is to be reduced on account of no hawkers and shops being permitted thereon, but no fresh tenders have been invited for construction of such skywalks by the authorities. If such tenders are invited, then construction would be done at marginally lower costs, the PIL said.
In the absence of detailed guidelines, the proposal for construction of skywalks in different areas is entirely as per the wishes of the concerned authorities and local representatives, the PIL claimed. It said that, often, after visiting the site, the local representatives have merely made an oral request over the telephone to the authorities about their desire to construct the skywalk in a particular area.
The activists are seeking to stop or stay further construction of skywalks in the MMR without amending the sanctioned development plan prescribed under the MRTP Act, till the final hearing of their litigation.
Skywalks are an effort to give the pedestrian much-needed space to walk as more and more footpaths were disappearing and there are very few subways available. Especially on the roads that lead to various suburban railway stations, these proposed skywalks would have given pedestrians much-needed freedom from roadside hawkers and the incessant honking of bumper-to-bumper traffic in congested areas. But these structures had become controversial following allegation of large-scale corruption in their construction. Even Vasant Davkhar, then deputy chairperson of the Maharashtra Legislative Council, had made serious allegations in June 2009.
Although the government promised an investigation, there is still no update on the same.