The Big Interview with Dr. Sanjay Mukherjee, MMRDA Chief | mojo4industry Exclusive
Welcome to an exclusive edition of “The Big Interview,” where we bring you the latest insights from influential personalities shaping the world. Today, we are privileged to host a groundbreaking interview with the newly appointed Commissioner of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), Dr. Sanjay Mukherjee.
Dr. Mukherjee, congratulations on your recent appointment as the Chief of MMRDA. This is indeed a crucial role in overseeing the development and progress of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region. Before we delve into the details, could you please share a bit about your top priorities as MMRDA Chief?
MMRDA currently serves as the local governing body overseeing the comprehensive development of the entire Mumbai metropolitan area, spanning five districts: Mumbai, Suburban, Thane, Palghar, and Raigad districts. This region is presently recognized as one of the fastest-growing urban conglomerates nationally and potentially globally.
Operating as a regional Development Authority, MMRDA assumes the principal role in urban planning, encompassing area-focused development and a substantial initiative in enhancing connectivity. The establishment of effective transportation links is primarily facilitated through the implementation of metro systems and the construction of pivotal roads and bridges.
Furthermore, MMRDA is extensively engaged in external road area development initiatives. As the MMRDA Chief, my foremost commitment is to ensure the successful completion of these developmental projects. Concurrently, I will endeavor to ensure that these projects adhere to environmentally sustainable practices and yield maximal advantages for the populace.
Which projects are on top of your priority list?
Undoubtedly, the comprehensive connectivity of the Metro Line system stands as a highly significant undertaking. This endeavor encompasses a total of 14 Metro Lines. Presently, three of these lines, namely Metro Line-1, Metro Line-7, and Metro Line-2A, have been successfully completed. Additionally, two Metro Lines are currently under the jurisdiction of MMRC, while the remaining lines fall under the purview of MMRDA. This aspect holds utmost importance on our agenda.
Simultaneously, our flagship project, the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL), is on the brink of completion. We are committed to finalizing this project as swiftly as possible. The link, constituting the largest sea bridge in the nation, will establish a vital connection between Mumbai and Navi Mumbai.
Similarly, we are significantly involved in water supply through the implementation of the Surya project. Currently, the initial two phases of this project are nearly completed. The provision of water to Vasai-Virar is in its final stages, as well as the supply to Mira-Bhayander. Construction is underway for the relevant dam section, which holds paramount importance.
Additionally, we are actively engaged in various road, bridge, and connectivity initiatives. For instance, a tunnel is being constructed from Orange Gate to Marine Drive, and underground tunnels are being developed beneath the Sanjay Gandhi National Park to connect Thane with Borivali.
Moreover, MMRDA plays a substantial role in urban planning. We are responsible for creating a regional plan that encompasses the entire MMR area. The identification of several growth centers is underway, where our focus lies on fostering sustainable planning, growth practices, and civic infrastructure. Our unwavering priority remains ensuring that all growth is sustainable, environmentally friendly, and contributes positively to both the community and business landscape.
The Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link i.e. MTHL is a significant infrastructure project aimed at connecting Mumbai with Navi Mumbai and the mainland of Maharashtra. How this ambitious project will play a role in socio-economic transformation of the entire state of Maharashtra?
The MTHL is set to establish an unprecedented connection between the main area of Maharashtra and the Island City of Mumbai. This innovative link will drastically reduce the travel time from a total of two hours to less than 30 minutes, ensuring much smoother connectivity and transportation.
Anticipated to work in synergy with the Navi Mumbai International Airport, the MTHL is poised to bring about a transformative shift and be a game-changer in the Mumbai Metropolitan region’s dynamics. We are eager to commence the MTHL project at the earliest opportunity, and with the Navi Mumbai International Airport’s projected completion by December 2024, we hold high hopes that this combined development will indeed become a game-changer, as widely anticipated.
While the MTHL project is expected to bring about the numerous benefits that you mentioned, there are several environmental concerns associated with its construction and operation. How are you dealing with this aspect?
Regarding the MTHL, it has successfully obtained all the necessary environmental clearances, which were a prerequisite for its execution. Throughout the implementation process, we are committed to meeting and exceeding stipulated conditions, ensuring rigorous adherence to standards. This includes measures that go beyond the expected requirements.
Similarly, our focus extends to the well-being of our workforce and the community involved. Not only are our laborers benefiting from schemes like the Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana, but we have also diligently registered all workers under the Building and Other Construction Workers Act. This approach ensures that the bridge’s construction adheres to the highest standards of professionalism and sustainability.
Additionally, I’d like to emphasize that our efforts encompass the enhancement of the travel experience along the MTHL. We have lowered the height of the crash barriers, enhancing the visual perspective for travelers. Moreover, as you journey along the route and observe the vibrant flamingoes, a closer look will reveal that the mud flats remain undisturbed, preserving the wetlands and the environment. This is an encouraging testament to our commitment to environmental preservation. Going forward, we aspire to undertake more such sustainable initiatives.
Metro Line has become the new lifeline for Mumbaikars. How do you see the role of the Metro Line during monsoon?
An intriguing aspect of Mumbai’s Metro system lies in the operation of Line-7 and Line-2A. Over the past few months, we’ve witnessed a steady increase in passenger ridership, approximately rising by five percent each month. This upward trajectory is exceedingly promising and indicative of a notable preference for this mode of public transportation over other available options.
Furthermore, it’s worth highlighting that even during the monsoon season, our Metro services have been consistently operational without any interruptions. Notably, there hasn’t been a single instance of waterlogging or related issues affecting any station. This reliability is a significant achievement, and we are determined to uphold and enhance this performance.
To supplement the Metro services and facilitate last-mile connectivity, MMRDA has taken an additional step. We recently convened a meeting with the esteemed Chief Secretary, joined by various stakeholders. During this meeting, the Chief Secretary directed the Commissioner to initiate arrangements for shared taxis and auto-rickshaws, thereby ensuring effective last-mile connectivity.
Overall, the Metro has demonstrated considerable success even amidst the monsoon season, and we are resolute in our commitment to sustain and improve upon this accomplishment.
How about connecting Mumbai with Navi Mumbai via Metro?
The CIDCO Board of Directors has initiated the process of preparing a Detailed Project Report (DPR) for connectivity between Mankhurd, the International Airport, Belapur, and beyond. Additionally, the Navi Mumbai Metro project extending from Belapur to Pendhar has reached completion, having received the approval of the Commissioner of Metro Rail Safety (CMRS). Presently, the project awaits the decision of the Maharashtra government to determine the commencement of services.
Meanwhile, MMRDA is engaged in the development of Line-2B, which is the largest line under construction. This line will connect various points and extend up to Mankhurd. MMRDA’s progress on this project is already underway.
From heading CIDCO to heading MMRDA – which is more challenging and why?
In an officer’s career journey, different assignments present distinct challenges. During my tenure at CIDCO, while handling Navi Mumbai, one significant challenge was initiating the physical construction of the International Airport and ensuring adherence to the set timelines. Additionally, we expanded the housing project to become the largest in the world. Addressing the impasse in the Navi Mumbai Metro project, our task was to secure clearances, complete the work, and hand over the Panvel City to the municipal corporation. Substantial progress was also achieved in the Kharghar to Kamothe region, encompassing most of the infrastructure work and initiating various other projects.
Transitioning to MMRDA, which has a broader area of operation and jurisdiction, the challenges take on a larger scale. Here, the pivotal task is to accomplish the construction of an extensive 357 kilometers of Metro lines, a colossal undertaking. Furthermore, as we operate within Mumbai, distinctive challenges emerge such as limited site availability and constant 24×7 traffic congestion. Each organization presents its own unique set of challenges that must be managed effectively.
One last question before we conclude—what message would you like to convey to the residents of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region as you embark on this important role?
I want to convey that Mumbai is experiencing growth and improvement. My request and appeal to all residents of this area are to kindly cooperate and bear with us as we undertake these necessary infrastructure projects. Just like starting at a gym might be uncomfortable initially but leads to satisfying results over time, Mumbai’s upgrade efforts are in their early stages with some positive outcomes already visible. Considering my past experience in BMC, substantial work has been accomplished, yet there’s more ahead. Every citizen of Mumbai plays a role in this endeavor, and I urge everyone to join hands as we collectively contribute to these initiatives. Together, we can achieve our goals.