Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Why Mumbai Is A Great City!

And there are no comparisons here. It is not in many places that you can see this. Humanity displayed, people connecting with each other across the often seen barriers of class and caste - this is what makes Mumbai such a great city. The Mumbai blasts were dastardly acts of desperate people trying to cause havoc. But Mumbai has come back on its feet.

The city displays its spirit in every resident. Students rushed to help people, gave them shelter in the hostels, the canteens provided food and strengthened the very foundation that these abhorable acts tried to loosen. Salaam Mumbai!

Bloggers have done their bit. The Mumbai Help blog was a place for people stranded in office with jammed phone networks to communicate with their near and dear ones. It has has a list of people injured and dead and emergency numbers. Blood donations are required today and just like it has happened earlier, Mumbai will not be short of it. If you want to personally participate - visit Indian Blood Donors.

Its time now for India to act. Its policy of non-violence is being taken as that of defeat. Repeatedly we are being targeted by these cowards who hide behind the mob and attack. Come on India!

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Theory Of Constraints And Mumbai Traffic - Part I

I have been fiddling with Theory Of Constraints recently, and wanted to apply it to one of the most unique problems in the world - Mumbai traffic. I am sure it will result in some comparisons with the San Francisco and Bay Area traffic.

This post is Part I where will identify the problems and the constraints. In the next post we will apply the TOC to come out with possible solutions.

The Problems

Mumbai has a root problem - ever increasing population, mainly through immigration. This is no fault of the people, Mumbai is a land of opportunities. However, this has plagued it with a variety of problems that has increased the time for travel and created difficulties for handling the traffic:

Increasing number of vehicles

Mumbai has shown an alarming growth in the number of vehicles, both private and public (typically autorickshaws and taxis or cabs). If the private vehicles increase, then for the same population the public vehicles should reduce or vice versa. A good percentage of the population that increases through influx from other parts of the country end up in driving the public vehicles. So more services are offered but for a lesser customer base because of the increase in private vehicles. Result is that the total number of vehicles have increased without equivalent increase in the traffic infrastructure.

Bad design and quality roads, and ongoing construction

The authorities are awakening to this reality and are taking certain steps to improve it. However, this itself has started creating problems. Construction and repair work on the roads is going on continuously and there is no respite from diversions and the ensuing traffic jams. In fact, some of the spots have become accident probables because of dug up holes or the barriers.

No driving knowledge

Lets face it, the RTO does not ensure that drivers who get licenses know the rules. Anyone who can change the gear and use the brake and accelerator comes on the road and rampantly blasts all the rules. Cutting across lanes, overtaking from the left, breaking signals, not abiding by the speed limit, jams at signals, the circular jams are pretty common.

No alternate routes

Ideally, alternate routes would have helped ease the traffic. Traffic congestion is at its peak in the north-south and in some parts of the east-west corridor.

The Constraints

To apply TOC lets identify the constraints and focus on them to find solutions to the problems caused by them. We might be able to break some of the constraints, or sometimes just reduce their effect.

  • Mumbai has to deal with growing population, and public transport is still the popular choice, even on the road. Public transport cannot be reduced to increase space for private vehicles.

  • Mumbai is an old city and still has some old bylanes, in fact, too many of them. This has created a grid of many intersections which are candidates for traffic jams.

  • Like elsewhere, fuel is getting expensive day by day, but more so here in Mumbai.

  • A lot of businesses thrive on the road, which causes traffic congestion in spots. This ends up narrowing the actual space available for driving.

  • There is no additional space in Mumbai, neither for diversions nor for alternate roads/routes.

  • Lot of drivers are still illiterate and uneducated.

  • Mumbai transport infrastructure is governed by a number of authority groups - BMC, MMRDA, the railways and then there is the government.

  • Mumbai is has grown more in the north-south corridor, with suburbs continuing to extend in the north.

  • In spite of being the financial capital of India, Mumbai cannot afford expensive transport options. The masses are still near the poverty line, and Mumbai is facing a multitude of problems along with the transport.

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Sunday, June 11, 2006

Respect The Nature Or Get Heavily Punished

This is true not only for Mumbai but many places. But it is definitely more important for Mumbai, especially because nature will have to be treated like extinct species to keep is amongst us. What we have to remind ourselves is that there is no one else to blame, it is only us.

(Courtesy Wikipedia)

What we call Bandra khaadi, is actually the creek that empties into the Mahim bay. It could have been one of the most beautiful places, however its foul smell is an indication of arrival of Mahim railway station. Mithi river which could have run through the heart of Mumbai, could have supported ecological systems or could have been water source for local parks has been turned into just another nullah.

We have seen on 26th July 2005 what nature can do to us if we try to ignore it. This, however, could just be a trailer if we continue with our ignorant attitude. It is not only about the Mithi river, we are seeing quarrying being continuously carried out for new constructions, we are seeing hillocks being flattened, nullahs and gutters being jammed and trees being felled. If we destroy something, we have to make provision for it somewhere else, otherwise it will turn into our own graveyard one day.

Few things that we can probably learn from the San Francisco management (I prefer management to government, management is what is so much required today!). A few examples:


When hills or hillocks are flatted to build new cities or communities, hydrologists, environmentalists and geologists are involved to see if we can try to minimize disturbance to the existing ecology. I have seen following steps towards this:
  • Hydrologists were involved to make sure that the natural streams were not affected. Even if any were destroyed, artificial ones were built to make sure that water flow is not hindered. This also ensures maintenance of the water table.
  • Environment specialists were involved to make sure that a settlement of burrowing owls were not affected.
  • Whenever new communities or cities were built there were places reserved for gardens and greenery.
Probably more would have been taken, and I believe some of these are also applied here. However, there is no knowledge whether they are executed. I see hills being quarried off in places like Thakur Village or Andheri or near Ghodbunder Road. What will happen to the landscape if all these disappear! They are extremely for the ecological balance.

I hear a lot of discussions about trees and greenery, but overall Mumbai is losing its greenery. I believe there are some rules set by BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). Drive on the Wester/Eastern Express Highways is hot and arid, neither is the downtown drive green. We see occassional facelifts when a prominent individual is about to visit. They are required for the common man, not just for the visitors!


To keep the nature pure, artificial materials need to be properly disposed. This was part of the reason why the Mithi river flooding cause so much disruption. Some of the things that can be done:
  • Separate wet and dry wastage, so that they can be separately disposed
  • Recycle plastic and metal.
  • Drains and gutters should be kept free of artificial materials that can choke them up.
  • Public places, parks, gardens, beaches should be kept clean.
The ideal case would be every individual acts like a citizen and contributes in achieving this. However, it has been seen that everyone might not be interested in it. In such scenarios, the management should make sure that tough regulations are in place, and tough punishment is provided in case of violation. Some examples that I have seen in California:
  • Fine upto $1000 for throwing waste on historic/scenic routes
  • Heavy fines and sometimes even imprisonment for litter in parks or public places.
In Mumbai, I have seen the local bhajiwaalas have started to hand out plastic bags, by default, showing complete disrespect to the ban on use of plastic bags. This is encouraged by leniency in punishing the guilty.


It is important that all the residents in Mumbai should be educated about preserving Mumbai. Mind you, this is not a one-sided responsibility of the authorities, all of us need to educate others about this. Isn't it funny that in spite of staying in Mumbai I realised the importance of Mithi river an year back, through unfortunate incidents.

If we can educate people about this, just like the recent drives for tax payments and child diseases. It will be great if students in Mumbai can learn more about the local Geography. I wish I had learnt in my schools.

There are thousands and thousands of more such points to discuss, but the crux of this is that now we cannot afford to be reactive and make corrections. We have to be proactive, and take steps to avoid problems. Every individual should make genuine effort and try his/her best to protect the natural Mumbai. If that does not happen, the management should enforce this through regulations and laws. Heavy punishments should be handed out so that they can deter the ill-mindeds from disrespecting the nature. If we don't do this, nature will take its turn to punish us heavily.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

The Second Attempt

Todate, I have lived my life in the two most popular bay areas in the world - Mumbai (Bombay) and San Francisco. I know the latter is called the bay area, Mumbai is not much different in what nature has given. The difference is how we humans have treated them. As naive as I am, I cannot help but compare the two. Through this comparison I want to bring out the good and bad in both the places, adopt the goods that we can and change aamchi Mumbai for better. I would like to know your opinions; and your contributions are welcome.

I have been blabbering about this to a lot of people, but haven't been able to reach many yet. This is my second attempt at it, this time through writings instead of mouth. Hopefully the result will be different!

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