Mumbai in Transit:
The Evolving Landscapes of Transport Infrastructure
The city of Mumbai has seen a universe of activities happening within it over the passage of time. When it was colonized, it became the city wherein India met the world. It then went through a phase of modernization after independence, as it got back on its own feet and embraced the new ways of governing itself and planning its own growth. Post-1991, India entered into a third phase, that of globalisation, and experienced rapid infrastructural development. This was also the time during which it underwent a change in its identity, with its name switched from Bombay to Mumbai and many of its iconic infrastructural buildings shedding their colonial identities and assuming new names too, such as Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus.
With its exploding population causing an overload on the limited infrastructure, the quality of life for Mumbai’s citizens has been suffering for a few decades and needs urgent improvement. A plethora of new transportation projects and proposals are in the pipeline, some already in progress and some set to begin soon. In this dissertation, I examined two of these colossal infrastructural projects – one based on heritage conservation and the other based on a global futuristic vision through transport networks – and analysed their impact on the city at the moment and in the future.
The Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) has been an iconic station for more than a century in the heart of Mumbai, and a redevelopment project is set to take over soon. Although the new proposal aims to improve connectivity and passenger convenience, it does seem to overlook the “heritage” aspect of the project in its desire to make CSMT a world-class station that provides everything one could ever need. All the proposed modifications are based on the model of a global international terminus that the CSMT does not need to be. These plans, eerily similar to that of the station’s western counterparts, might not be necessarily relevant for a developing economy like India, which has a rich heritage that it could lose in the process. The project instead needs a sensitive approach that respects the building, its culture as well as its needs. The Mumbai metro is another project that will bring a host of benefits to the city in terms of connectivity and distribution of commuters. However, if not handled carefully, the type of infrastructure and culture that the metro offers might prove fatal to that of the local trains which have been the city’s backbone for decades. As UNESCO observes: ‘Urban sustainability can be realised based on effective management of population density and resource consumption, while methodologies and mechanisms that boost synergies within built environments can support developing economies in preventing the destructive impacts of abrupt urbanisation.’
In an article by Business Standard, published on 21st July 2022, it was revealed that the IRSDC, the agency proposing and overlooking the redevelopment of CSMT, has just been dissolved. The project has therefore gone back to scratch and all the processes that happened till now after several delays, namely the formation of the basic proposal, bidding, and shortlisting of bidders, have all gone to waste. Everything will be started with a fresh palette. It happened because Indian Railways underwent an internal restructuring, and hence all projects under IRSDC were shelved.
With an economy so massive, many institutions and stakeholders are involved, often with conflicting interests. To add to this, the political disputes among ruling parties exacerbate the trouble and confusion. These perplexities form the core of the reasons why most projects in Mumbai are either realised only partly, or several years after the first proposal, while others never see the light of the day. With the IRSDC now closed, it will be interesting to see the new proposals that will arise, and the counterproposals by activists and urban planners that ensue. Although Mumbai is globalising at thunderous speed, it has a fair share of buildings and precincts that emanate an “Old World” charm. However, one thing is guaranteed: the city will always remain a melting pot of people from all over the country with different opinions and interests. And hence Mumbai will never lose its appeal as one of the most complex yet beautiful cities in the world.
 UNESCO, Culture: urban future: global report on culture for sustainable urban development (Paris, UNESCO: 2016), 175.
 Dhruvaksh Saha, ‘Mumbai’s CSMT facelift plan back to drawing board due to railway revamp’, Business Standard, 21, July, 2022, https://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/mumbai-s-cstm-redevelopment-shelved-due-to-restructuring-in-indian-railways-122072001071_1.html.