Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Mumbai, City of the Future

Perhaps this is a good thing. All the success of Shanghai might actually get the residents of Mumbai to bite the bullet and engage in creative destruction. The main problem with Mumbai, as I have posted in this blog here and here, is the sea of slums, the dwellers of which "are encouraged and protected by political parties of every hue as they provide a huge catchment area for votes. " Indeed the first thing one sees from the airplane window upon arrival is slums, and the plans for expansion of the Mumbai airport have been stalled because of the government's inability to evict the residents.

The congress party is not strong in Mumbai, but it is the congress government that is leading the effort to modernize Mumbai. The Asia Times quotes Prime Minister Manmohan Singh:
"When we talk of a resurgent Asia, people think of the great changes that have come about in Shanghai. I share this aspiration to transform Mumbai in the next five years in such a manner that people would forget about Shanghai and Mumbai will become a talking point," the prime minister said. "I have a dream that we can do it. I believe we can become number one through modernization, expansion and development and make Mumbai the number one city in our country,"
The government of Maharashtra has indeed announced a US$6.5 billion plan to modernize the city, including a Metro-rail link, and plenty of other infrastructure projects. It takes an optimist to believe that Mumbai can even vaguely resemble the magnificence of Shanghai, but Mumbai has a huge amount of character, and just a little beautification will go a long way.

If India gets serious about enhancing its urban infrastructure, and about making its cities (especially Mumbai) livable, a huge step forward will be made.

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