Walking is perhaps the most basic of needs for human beings who settle in community. Connectivity of community within comfortable walking distance to basic amenities is not only sustainable but also a practice towards our healthy well-being. The world over, cities are trying to reinvent their urban spaces to reclaim this practice by encouraging better pedestrian connectivity and encouraging walking or bicycle usage to reach places. Unfortunately, in Mumbai, the neighborhood development has never accounted for wide pedestrian walkways and whatever little is provided is mostly littered, trashed and abused to an extent where citizens would rather hop into a car and go places than risk putting their feet in muck and garbage by pushing and jostling in chaotic spaces.
Walking Project, an initiative by Rishi Aggarwal, Amar Deshpande, Pramod Dabrase, Abhijit Mehta and Vivek Gilani aims to demand this basic amenity by making walking a pleasant and environmentally-friendly feature. Through this initiative, they would like to make Mumbai city the most walkable city in next 10 years.
The project, which is going to be launched during the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, is an encouraging project for a city where walking comes with its own set of perils. Safety, cleanliness, maintenance, clear demarcation and encroachments are all extremely real issues at play.
To be successful and widely acceptable such an initiative will have to move beyond activism level and inclusion of well laid policies and implementation will all have to join hands with urban planning. Not to mention discouraging single occupancy vehicles, strengthening public transport systems and decongesting first, and then regulating urban pockets will encourage people to walk to places. Unless it is implemented as a holistic strategy where everyone feels they have a role in improving a civic life and reclaiming public spaces, it will remain a challenging task to accomplish.
It nevertheless remains a significant move towards saner practices for a more vibrant neighborhood. It is tragic that citizens have to take this matter into their own hands because city officials, bureaucrats, builders and built environment professionals only see Mumbai as a goldmine for making quick money by making it a single-dimensional profit making commercial or high-end residential towers development.
More power to the Walking Project.