Exclusive Interview with Dr. Sanjay Mukherjee, IAS, Metropolitan Commissioner, MMRDA

Vinod Shah Posted on: 2023-12-10 00:13:00 Viewer: 5,956 Comments: 0 Country: India City: Mumbai

Exclusive Interview with Dr. Sanjay Mukherjee, IAS, Metropolitan Commissioner, MMRDA

Dr. Sanjay Mukherjee, GMC 89 batch, is an IAS officer of 1996 batch, Maharashtra Cadre. The youngest incumbent of each of the assignments he has held, with a huge passion in Nation Building, Dr. Mukherjee is widely respected as the Project Man of Maharashtra.

Most of the notable projects of Maharashtra, especially the Mumbai Metropolitan Region bear his signature. From the Mumbai Coastal Road Project to the Mumbai Trans harbour Link, from the Metro Projects in MMR to the suburban railway projects and the Navi Mumbai International Airport, he has been one of the guiding forces resolving various issues and making the project move full steam ahead. The man behind the fastest building in the world as a part of Mission 96, the person who executed the largest housing project in the country, the Navi Mumbai International Airport, the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link, the Mumbai Metro Rail projects, several new towns across MMR, and several more, Dr. Mukherjee has been a trailblazer wherever he has served.

As an IAS officer, he has been the Collector of 2 districts, Municipal Commissioner of 2 cities and the Chief of 3 Urban Development. Dr. Mukherjee is currently serving as the Metropolitan Commissioner of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, when he is striving to take MMR to a 1 trillion economy. One of the driving forces in management of the COVID pandemic, Dr Mukherjee is a nationally and internationally awarded officer. His awards include recognition from UNESCO, the British Commonwealth, FIFA, Government of India and Government of Maharashtra, in addition to many from various social organisations. 

In a recent interaction with Urban Transport News, he shares insights into the challenges faced, milestones achieved, and the strategic vision that propels the metro rail developments in one of the country's most dynamic urban regions i.e. Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR).

Can you provide an overview of the current status and progress of the Mumbai Trans Harbor Link (MTHL) Project? How do you envision this project contributing to the overall transportation infrastructure and connectivity in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region?

The physical progress of the MTHL project is about 97 %, so it is safe to say that the project is nearing its completion. In particular, the superstructure work for MTHL has been successfully completed. The implementation of other basic necessities of the bridge, like waterproofing, reinforcement, establishment of the administrative building, toll booth, intelligent transport system are in progress are planned to be completed in December. MTHL has turned out exactly the way we envisioned it to be, and its completion will be a major accomplishment and a moment of pride for MMRDA.

I can go on and on about the wide range of benefits that MTHL has to offer from connectivity and economic development to sustainability and environmental welfare. However, I will limit my answer to the context of the question. In short, it will redefine the connectivity between Mumbai and Navi Mumbai by reducing the distance between the cities from 42 km to 22 km. It will also save the commuters’ time in travelling from Mumbai to Goa, Mumbai-Pune Expressway and also provide shorter connectivity to the proposed Alibaug-Virar multimodal corridor. The hybrid tolling system comprising of conventional etc and Open Road Tolling is expected to ensure smooth travel through the 16-lane toll plaza. Also, its intelligent transport system will efficiently administer and regulate the movement of vehicles over the 21.8 km long sea bridge, making it a huge leap in the transportation infrastructure in the MMR

With the extensive expansion of the Mumbai Metro network under your leadership, could you please share the latest update on under construction/upcoming metro corridors? How do you anticipate these projects to impact the city's overall transportation system in the long run?

The Maha Mumbai Metro is the epitome of sustainability, and it consistently upholds the welfare of the MMR’s citizens by giving them a convenient and safe mode of transportation. I am pleased to be at the helm of MMRDA and witness first-hand the accomplishments of the Metro services. It is a known fact that Metro Lines 2A and 7 are making waves in terms of ridership and popularity, and there is more to come in the forthcoming years. Especially, Metro Lines 2B, 4, 4A, 5, and 9 are under construction, and more than 50 % of the physical progress has been achieved in every one of them. The construction works of these Metro Lines are strategically initiated keeping in mind the growing transportation needs of the residents of the MMR. Thus, upon their successful completion, the new Metro Lines are anticipated to make substantial improvements to the aspect of connectivity and convenience in and around the MMR.

The development of new growth centers through the implementation of a new master plan is a significant initiative. Could you elaborate on the key objectives and strategies outlined in the master plan and how these initiatives aim to address the evolving urban infrastructure needs of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region?

Ans-Our vision for the new growth centres in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region is multifaceted in nature. However, we prioritize sustainable development and more balanced growth of the region through a dispersal of employment opportunities across the region with our strategic directives. The Growth Centres are envisaged as integrated complexes with an intention to boost manufacturing and industries in the Region, opportunities for office sector employment, research and development, education and recreational facilities and the necessary housing and infrastructure.

The infrastructure of the MMR has tremendously progressed over the last few decades under the supervision of MMRDA.   In our strategies, we have sincerely taken into consideration the present and future necessities of the people residing in the vicinity of our growth centres. Thus, our meticulous focus on infrastructural developments using the growth centres will bring promising changes to the lives of people, including affordable housing, elevation of employment opportunities, improvement in the accessibility of education and healthcare, etc.

Mumbai Metro Line 2A and Line 7 have recently achieved significant ridership milestones. What factors do you attribute to the success and popularity of these metro lines, and how do you plan to sustain and further enhance their ridership in the future?

The services we offer at the Maha Mumbai Metro are defined by our commitment to fulfilling the expectations of Mumbaikars. Thus, we have taken all the necessary measures to enhance the comfort of the riders through our effective management. We keep constant tabs on the growing ridership on Metro Lines 2A and 7 to ensure that our services are meeting the monumental demands of our frequent riders. Our constant observations have also helped us to refine our service timings and destinations in accordance with our passengers’ unique requirements. Recently, we have even extended the duration of the Metro services to match the elevating demands. Thus, I believe that our ability to ensure the efficient management of the Metro services and our keen attention to the passengers’ expectations have helped these Metro Lines to achieve success and recognition. Moreover, it is also our way forward to keep bringing intuitive improvements to the existing and new Metro Lines in the future.

In the context of sustainable urban development, how does MMRDA integrate environmental sustainability and eco-friendly practices into the planning and execution of these infrastructure projects? Could you share any specific initiatives undertaken to ensure the sustainability and resilience of the transportation infrastructure in the region?

Initiatives that contribute to urban development involve a wide range of construction duties and they will always have an impact on the environment, in one way or another. However, we are committed to going to greater lengths to ensure minimal environmental impact for all our infrastructure projects. Thorough examinations are often conducted with expert guidance to determine the economic and environmental effects of our projects before their initiation. Also, we embrace the prowess of innovation to reinforce our projects with sustainability and environment-friendliness. Our efforts to uphold sustainability extend beyond the planning phase, as we also stringently regulate the construction projects throughout their completion. One of our recent actions to promote environmental welfare was the establishment of the Air Pollution Squad to regularly oversee the proper maintenance of the construction sites as per the guidelines prescribed by the MMRDA.

What are the key strategies employed by MMRDA to ensure the seamless integration of various modes of transportation within the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, thereby promoting efficient and convenient multi-modal transit for the residents and commuters?

Our prestigious services at the Maha Mumbai Metro can benefit a lot more people and offer an enhanced level of convenience to the passengers with multi-modal integration. So, we have welcomed some unique strategies to not only offer better integration of different modes but also deliver comfort to the passengers in every possible way. Safety is the primary objective of our directives to implement multi-modal integration, as the intersection of different modes can result in safety issues. Also, one of our key strategies in our establishment of multi-modal integration for Metro Lines 2A and 7 is the assurance of minimal social impact. These strategies have helped us to facilitate multi-modal transit without affecting the lives and livelihoods of people during the time of implementation. Also, we firmly believe in upholding the interests of every citizen of the MMR whether they are passengers of the Mumbai Metro or pedestrians. So, we have established widened footpaths, controlled crossings, and even benches to ensure the safety and convenience of people belonging to all age groups.   

Could you shed light on any upcoming innovative technological advancements or strategies that MMRDA plans to incorporate into the ongoing and future infrastructure projects, with a specific focus on enhancing operational efficiency, safety, and passenger experience?

All our construction projects under development from the Surya Water Project to the Flyover on the Western Express Highway are imbued with the power of innovation and advanced technological solutions. For Passenger Experiance Digital Ticketing and Connectivity: MMRDA is exploring ways to enhance the passenger experience by upgrading ticketing systems to digital platforms, including payment wallets. The use of messaging apps like WhatsApp for ticketing purposes is also under consideration. Improving connectivity through mobile apps and providing real-time information on schedules and services is expected to streamline the passenger journey, contributing to an overall improvement in satisfaction. Under technological advancements, we could include the implementation of ATO mode of train operation which is an extremely safe and reliable system of CATC with the least human interference, which leads to less chances of failure due to human error. Regular monitoring of systems available in Stations through centralized BMS computer for on the spot identification of system failures These are just a very few examples of how we operate and how innovation and technology backs our profound initiatives. In short, our construction projects of today and tomorrow will always be supported by modern and innovative approaches to conserve valuable resources and improve the safety and sustainability of the construction sites.

Considering the evolving urban landscape and changing mobility patterns, what long-term vision does MMRDA have for the sustainable development and growth of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region's transportation infrastructure? How does this vision align with the broader sustainable development goals for the region?

Sustainable regional development is the actual long-term vision of MMRDA, and each of our infrastructural projects is designed with innovation and utmost dedication to uphold our vision. It is a great challenge to integrate sustainability into infrastructure projects, but we heartily embrace it to make the MMR a frontrunner in enforcing sustainable development. There are several infrastructural projects in place that are focused on improving connectivity, reducing traffic, and improving the quality of life. Especially, the Metro services are integral to our vision, and their extended availability in the future will complement our elaborate goals for sustainable development. Also, projects like the MTHL are going to aid in the conservation of fuels, thereby bringing us close to a sustainable future.

Could you please share your thoughts on the impact of our online publications Urban Transport News and Metro Rail Today, in terms of their role in facilitating knowledge exchange, collaboration, and progress within the urban infrastructure and transportation sectors?

I have had the opportunity to look into the articles from Urban Transport News and Metro Rail Today on several occasions. Specifically, the article that spoke about the MTHL can be considered my favourite among the ones I viewed. I personally believe that the work you do with these online productions holds a lot of value because it helps people understand the benefits in relation to transportation and infrastructure that are coming their way from time to time. A lot of infrastructural projects are pursued throughout the country, especially in urban areas like the MMR. So, your work offers people the chance to stay updated with the new developments in urban transportation and infrastructure, and I would like to take this chance to appreciate your sincere efforts.

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