Residents object to CMP’s proposal for construction of road via biodiversity park, heavy investment on metro rail, reserving negligible funds for pedestrian infrastructure improvement

Gurugram: An analysis of the draft Comprehensive Mobility Plan (CMP) released by the Gurugram Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA) for public feedback reveals a large number of objections raised by residents to the proposal of constructing a road between Ambience Mall and MG Road via the Aravalli biodiversity park, allocating 76% of the total funds for the Metro rail, and reserving only 0.008% investment for pedestrian infrastructure.

The CMP was released for public feedback on September 13 and closed on October 4, with 155 comments and objections raised by residents on the GMDA’s official website.

A first of its kind for Gurugram, the CMP has been compiled by the School of Planning and Architecture (SPA)in New Delhi, with the objective of improving public transport, road and pedestrian infrastructure by identifying various problems in each of these categories, and recommending solutions and changes based on the findings, keeping the projected population and expansion plans till 2041 in mind.

Based on the feedback, the GMDA will make alterations to the draft, before approving a final plan.

Road via Aravalli biodiversity park

The “new links category” of the CMP states that to increase access between the Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway and MG Road, a new road connection needs to be made between Ambience Mall and MG Road, through the Aravalli biodiversity park.

“Not in favour of having a road cut through the bio diversity park. These are the lungs of Gurugram and its destruction/reduction will have a detrimental impact on the already sad state of air quality,” S. Aggarwal, a resident stated as feedback to the CMP.

In October last year, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) had also made a similar proposal of two roads passing through the park connecting MG Road to Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway and Vasant Kunj.

For two months, environmentalists, activists, and school children protested against the proposal, forcing authorities to reconsider it.

“Any kind of construction in the park will destroy its ecosystem entirely. The park is an iconic symbol of the city and is one of its main sources of fresh air. Instead of constructing new roads, authorities should look at strengthening the public transport system, which will quell the need for finding alternative routes or widening existing roads that have already consumed a lot of trees in Gurugram over the last decade,” said Neelam Ahluwalia, a member of the Aravalli Bachao Campaign, a citizens’ movement.

Metro rail funds allocation

Under the “Phasing Plan and Costing” category in the CMP, the approximate capital cost, excluding land acquisition, to implementing the mobility plan is estimated at ₹19,788.4 crore. Approximately 76% of this — ₹15,229.4 crore, has been reserved for developing metro rail across the city.

“This (CMP) is a bad plan. We need more buses, more pedestrian options and more cycling options. We have enough flyovers and roads. And who will ride on these metros? Please see rapid metro condition before launching another metro project,” Rahul, a resident, said as feedback to the CMP.

“We have a Rapid Metro in the city which is closing down. After all the heavy investment and the environmental damage any construction does, CMP proposes a total investment of ₹19,788 crore, out of which 86 [76] % is for Metro rail projects,” said Mohammad Mahboob Khan, a resident.

Dr Rohit Baluja, president of Institute of Road Traffic Education (IRTE) said that any mobility plan should not be reserved for a single city but must also take into account adjoining cities to make long-term plans successful.

“For any CMP to succeed, public transport facilities of nearby areas such as the National Capital Region (NCR) need to be taken into account. If you isolate one city to make long-term plans, the plan is doomed to fail. If an expansion plan of all NCR cities had been undertaken properly in the past, Metro and public bus service connectivity would have been equally distributed to account for maximum public ridership. Since the same was not adopted, Gurugram’s CMP should also factor in public transport options in nearby cities, where its residents may travel,” Baluja said.

Negligible reservation of funds for pedestrian infrastructure

Only ₹1.5 crore funds (0.008% of the total) have been reserved for the next 22 years for the improvement of pedestrian facilities under the “Phasing Plan and Costing” category in the CMP, and residents were extremely critical of this.

“The attention given to make the city walkable for pedestrians is negligible,” Ronnie Kapoor, a resident, said as feedback to the CMP.

“Please consider pedestrian and cyclists equally important in this mobility plan,” said Ankur Gupta, another resident.

Sarika Panda Bhatt, program coordinator with Haryana Vision Zero (HVZ) said the funds reserved for pedestrian improvement is ideal for just 22 days, not years.

“Pedestrians account for the highest amount of road fatalities in the city, which is a known fact. Despite this, only a fraction of funds have been reserved for improving existing facilities. The amount, ₹1.5 crore will not even be sufficient to construct one kilometre of proper footpath. This desperately needs a rethink,” Bhatt said.

V Umashankar, chief executive officer (CEO) of GMDA said the civic body will look at each of comments, suggestions, and objections individually as many had been repeated. He did, however, acknowledge that funds reserved for pedestrian infrastructure will be looked into once more.

“It seems that a number of comments on the CMP have been cut and pasted word to word. We will consider these as one comment. Once the process of segregating comments, compiling and analysing them is done, a clearer picture on the feedback would be ascertained. Prima facie, the issue of funds allocation for pedestrian infrastructure definitely will be relooked,” Umashankar said.

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