Where ever skywalks have been built in other states in India, authorities have confessed on more than one occasion that skywalks are not optimally by the public. People prefer crossing roads instead of taking skywalks for various reasons. Moreover skywalks that are two or more-storeyed are inaccessible for persons with physical disabilities and often senior citizens. In a power deficit city, even elevators in skywalks become meaningless. So the obvious question that comes to the common Navi Mumbaikars mind is that, does a planned city need a maintenance policy for the existing bridges and subways or whole new skywalks that do not guarantee success. The Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation is planning 5 skywalks in Navi Mumbai. NMMC claims that the skywalks will help reduce road-accidents in the region, facilitate crossing of heavy traffic-roads conveniently and provide elevators wherever feasible. NMMC Standing Committee Chairman Sandeep Naik gave an insight on NMMC’s plans for skywalks in a recent press conference. Not surprisingly, the proposed plans of having skywalks has raised questions on whether the city needs a maintenance policy for the existing subways and foot over bridges in Navi Mumbai or should the NMMC invest nearly Rs. 20 Cr of your taxes skywalks that are proving to be miserable civic failures wherever they have been built so far. For instance, in Bangalore, the skywalks in the city seemed to have failed as most people do not use the skywalks and prefer to cross the road instead. The failure has forced Bangalore Municipal Corporation to rethink its decision of sanctioning more skywalks. While officials are looking for reasons to cover up the failed skywalk scheme by stating that people in Bangalore were not using skywalks as they were not used to the concept of skywalks. Even in neighboring city Mumbai, there a very few takers for the skywalk built in Bandra. And the reasons for the failure are the same : * None of the skywalks are disabled friendly; that means physically challenged people are left out of the fancy skywalks plans * Most senior citizens find it difficult to climb skywalks as they are two or even three storey high * Escalators that most engineering brains in government organizations were proposing have been ruled out because the escalators are not easy to use for all and cannot be installed in open due to dust, rain and other technical reasons. The NMMC proposes elevators instead for skywalks but in a city that is suffering from 6 hours power cuts that are scheduled only during day time, elevators too become meaningless. The root of the failure seems to be that most government officials and public representatives go on foreign visits and see such skywalks and other projects that they want to ape when they come back to India. However, they do not study whether these projects like skywalks are viable and feasible in the conditions and economy of India. That is why experts like N R Permeswaran – Intl. PRO of Lions Club International and a Business Continuity Planner believe that building skywalks and spending funds on schemes that have proven to be a failure in India will mean wastage of public funds. And nothing can justify public fears of wastage of funds more than the already failed projects in this area. For instance the subways in the city like the one at Vashi village and Sanpada. The subway are rarely used and according to the public they prefer crossing roads than walking from the subway not just to save time but also for security reasons. Not to forget that NMMC is planning a skywalk at Vashi village highway where a subway has already proved to be a failure. And as far as the promises of making the skywalks landmarks are concerned, nothing is bigger blaring example of failed government initiatives than the Juinagar over bridge – once a landmark and today a junk of civic failure. And the focus should be on making footpaths encroachment free for pedestrians and ensuring that traffic signals and traffic system work effectively. NMMC might believe that skywalks – or rather glorified foot over bridges will be an added amenity but what they fail to see is that unless it NMMC proves that a civic corporation has the consistency to maintain the existing subways and foot over bridges, residents will believe, and with reason that the success of skywalks will remain just on paper.
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