Every time one visits a Dubai or a Singapore, one is astonished by how well they are developing the infrastructure in these cities. Then, back in one of Indias cities and all one can do is groan in sheer frustration. With little or no planning, we have let things slide. The focus on quality of life is completely absent. Yes, cities are the magnets, the engines of growth. But read a story like this in the Wall Street Journal and one is left wondering if we have any people with a heart left amongst our planners:
India’s economic growth in the past several years has brought new wealth and a higher standard of living to many in this metropolis of 18 million. But it also has created suburban sprawl that is adding more people to a rail network that has seen few new trains or tracks added in the past 30 years.
Indian officials have a new term to describe the 2.5 times capacity crowds that now ride at peak hours: Super-Dense Crush Load. That is, 550 people crammed into a car built for 200.
The result is what may be the world’s most dangerous commute. According to Mumbai police: 3,404 people, or about 13 each weekday, were killed in 2006 scrambling across the tracks, tumbling off packed trains, slipping off platforms, or sticking their heads out open doors and windows for air.
The toll has been increasing as daily ridership has increased to more than six million people a day. Last year’s tally was up 10% from the year before. Accidents are so common that stations stock sheets to cover corpses.
And this is just the beginning. Projects start late, take too much time, and have capacity constraints even before they are launched. Corruption is only one part of the problem. At the core is perhaps the fact that we just dont think right. We refuse to learn from the best examples the world over. We think we can reinvent the wheel into something better. So, we try and innovate in our solutions when all that is needed is smart copying.
Consider for example how we have built our airports.
Tomorrow: Dreams in the Air