MUMBAI SEALINK – India’s latest showcase to world

Mumbai MarvelIts been 5 years since the PM Manmohan Singh expressed his desire to see Mumbai one day become Shanghai.  Why Shanghai ?? Shanghai and Mumbai. Two of Asia’s greatest cities, washed by the seas, blessed by history. Both began their modern journey as British Empire’s subjects – one became a fascination after the first Opium War in 1842, the other, a clutch of villages, had been gifted as dowry to Charles II almost two hundred years earlier. Not much headway has been made towards making this dream a reality. But on June 30th we could see an Engineering Marvel – Bandra- Worli sealink finally be opened to the Public.

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An engineering marvel and the first-ever open sea bridge of its kind, the Bandra-Worli Sea Link is one of the most complex and advanced construction projects ever to have been undertaken in India. It was a project which was proposed 10 years back even before the ambitious plan to transform Mumbai into Shanghai was put forward. The project hoped to reduce the traffic congestion in the city. It took anywhere between 35-60 min to reach Bandra in north Mumbai from Worli in south Mumbai. The new link between the southern island city and the northwest suburbs will be an alternative to the existing Mahim Causeway. Work on the sea bridge began in 2005. During the time the project had been shelved, costs have zoomed from approximately Rs 346 crore to nearly Rs 1,346 crore.Its better late than never as they say, the Bridge would be opened to the public after Sonia Gandhi inaugurates it on June 30th.

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  • The Rs 1,634 crore (Rs 16.34 billion) project of the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation has been executed by Hindustan Construction Company.

  • The 5.6-km drive from Bandra to Worli over the sea link may be over in 6-7 minutes .Compare this to 40-60 min by road,that’s a huge difference.

  • The bridge weighs 20,000 tonne. The steel used for the project is equivalent to 50,000 elephants.

  • The length of steel used for the cable stayed bridge of the sea-link is estimated to be close to 40,000 km,which could cover the circumference of the Earth.

  • The bridge rests on two towers, each 126 metres tall or equivalent to a 43-storeyed building or 31 times the height of Qutub Minars. The skyline of Mumbai could be seen from atop the tower B.

  • A toll plaza with 16 lanes and an approximate length of 410 metres is provided at the Bandra end. The toll plaza will be equipped with state-of-the-art toll collection system.
  • The bridge is likely to consume 1,000 KW power a day, enough to meet the electricity requirement of 100 households.

  • 85 surveillance cameras to keep watch.

  • Bajaj Electricals has got the Rs 9 crore (Rs 90 million) illumination job of the 5.6 kilometer-long bridge, which is going to be a tourist spot in the island city.

But the passage over the sea link will not be free. The authorities will charge a one-way toll of Rs 50 for every car or light motor vehicle, Rs 75 for mini-buses, and Rs 100 for heavy motor vehicles like buses and trucks. From June 2010, there will be a 5 per cent increase in toll charges. For regular travellers, the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation plans a monthly payment of Rs 2,500 that will allow them multiple entry. Motorists can also buy a swipe card at an initial cost of Rs 300 and also pay a monthly toll. Or, for Rs 800, motorists can buy an electronic on-board unit and pay the monthly Rs 2,500. Many might frown at seeing this but in a world that we live in where “Time is Money”, 50 rupees is not going to make a hole in your pocket considering that the travel time would be only 7 min compared to the earlier 40 min. The biggest benefit to me is the amount of fuel that would be saved. So it remains to be seen how many actually use this bridge. It is expected to handle traffic of 80,000 vehicles per day and 5000 in peak hours. For those who would like to have a drive can do so for free for the first 5 days after which you need to pay to use the sea link.

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Will this Engineering Marvel speed up the development work in Mumbai if we have to have our own Shanghai in 10 years time. Both the cities were the same 50 years back.Both cities have giant leaders, intellectuals, business magnates and revolutionaries associated with them. But while Shanghai continued its journey into the future, Mumbai lagged behind. What is the difference??The one difference between development – the way it is happening in China and India – is the encumbrance of politics, which becomes inevitable in a vibrant democracy such as India.

Indeed, Manmohan’s dream to turn Mumbai into Shanghai will undoubtedly happen, but perhaps not at the pace it took place in Shanghai. As is often mentioned here, democracy means that one has to take the staircase to economic success, not the elevator, as in China. The sacrifice is worth it.

Sources : Economic times, ibnlive, Rediff, New York times

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