Look BMC, here's a footpath you should replicate across city
Look BMC, here’s a footpath you should replicate across city
Two young architects turn an uneven footpath at Parel into a model stretch lined with illuminated trees.
In a city where 57 of every 100 people who die in road accidents are pedestrians (according to a study conducted by the traffic police and transport think tank EMBARQ India), two young architects have turned a 120 mt footpath stretch in busy Parel area into a model walking stretch for the rest of Mumbai.
Pranav Naik, 29, and Shweta Chhatpar-Shah, 27, (pictured left) who have done their masters in architecture from the USbased universities, were offered the project in October last year, when financial services firm Motilal Oswal Group hired their services to beautify the area outside their office on Gokhale Road under corporate social responsibility programme.
This newspaper ran a lengthy campaign last year, titled 'I Am Mumbai, Talk The Walk', to reclaim the city's walking spaces, and found that citizens from across strata were disgusted at the wide-spread encroachment on public areas.
Sixty-five days later, the six-mt-wide stretch had been evened out and turned into a user-friendly walkway for the disabled, lined with illuminated trees and designed such that there won't be puddles of water during monsoon. The entire project cost around Rs 38 lakh, which should not be a factor for BMC, which has set aside Rs 2,500 crore for reconstruction and improvement of roads in city for the financial year 2014-15.
"We spent a few weeks clicking pictures of the stretch, and speaking to the users regarding the troubles they encountered," Naik said. "Pedestrians had to climb the footpath to access it, and it is a busy stretch lined with two bus stops. The paver blocks had created an uneven surface and the 10 trees had their roots jutted out, giving the stretch an ugly appearance," he said.
At several spots, the height of the pavement was found to be 14 to 18 inches, which was corrected to six-and-a-half inches for easy accessibility. The footpath was also given a slope to ensure zero water accumulation. "Around 100 sq mt of the stretch has been beautified using 13 weathering steel planters which will also ensure water will seep inside the trees and the roots will not jut out on the side of the footpath," Naik said.
Naik and Chhatpar-Shah did an extensive research into the guidelines followed by the developed countries while constructing such public amenities. "Beauty lies in the details and we made sure that even a small gap will not be tolerated. The masons soon realised we took the job seriously. There are 10 shops along the footpath and initial apprehension among the shopkeepers soon gave way to confidence and they supported us completely," Chhatpar-Shah said, adding they were further encouraged by the BMC assistant engineer (maintenance) Amol Kusale and corporator Seema Shivalkar.
Naik and Chhatpar-Shah said that executing basic things completely turned the stretch around. "We ensured the pavement's height was such that car doors didn't collide with it, and used Shahbad stones, which are durable, stronger and longer lasting than paver blocks to level the stretch," Naik said. "A traffic signal, besides manhole covers and water hydrants are on the same level as the footpath. We have also left a small space on the stretch, which is filled with gravel, to ensure the footpath need not be broken to carry out repairs," he added.
Naik and Chhatpar-Shah now want to remodel the footpath opposite the stretch, but will not be able to take up the project till the end of monsoon. "We also hope to work on the stretches in the western suburbs," Naik said. "It was like we were destined for this project. We would routinely complain about the condition of the city's footpaths. Then we get this proposal from Motilal Oswal and we were able to create a stretch that proves a spacecrammed city such as Mumbai could also have a pedestrian-friendly walkway," Chhatpar-Shah added.
Rishi Agarwal, the founder of Mumbai Walking Project, a think tank that has been urging the authorities to create model walking stretches across the city, visited the footpath and said the two architects have put out a great show.
"For two years now, we have been suggesting the construction of model footpaths but no action had been taken. And here we have two young architects who have shown the right template to design and construct high-quality footpaths. I am absolutely delighted to see the work of these two. Hopefully, BMC will now learn to put its massive budget to good use. Everybody in Mumbai should check this footpath," he said.