Authored article by Gulam Zia, Executive Director – Advisory, Retail and Hospitality, Knight Frank India

Barely a few hours into the prime time celebration of India’s inaugural Bullet Train dream, a shooting concern resurfaced in my thoughts.

The conundrum holds true for scores of working professionals who collectively make the country’s financial capital – Mumbai, work. For decades this massive workforce has painstakingly contributed towards an aspirational makeover for the city. But after witnessing many such dreams disappear into thin air for decades it is perhaps high time we circle back and understand our priorities for this bustling metro.

A stunning transport infrastructure is certainly essential for any city to become a global destination. But it is equally critical to decide the stages of one’s evolution. Investments worth billions of dollars don the planned transformation in the way we commute in Mumbai. Metrorail network, expressways, sea links, Monorail, swanky airports and an elevated railway corridor our civic drawing boards are packed with an envious spread.

While all that looks impressive how did some seasonal rains less than a month back bring the maximum city to a halt? The answer lies in our crumbling drainage system. It creeps up every monsoon. However, much like other similar burning issues it gets swept beneath the carpet.

The genesis of this quandary trails back to the century old drainage system. The first drainage project was conceived following major floods in 1985. But the herculean task to refurbish the city’s obsolete drainage system consisting of 2,000 km of open drains, 440 km of closed drains, 186 outfalls and more than 30,000 water entrances was a daunting task.

Eventually the stinking concern, however, found its due attention only after the catastrophic floods two decades later. The shaken administration rolled out its ambitious BrihanmumbaiStormwaterDisposal System (BRIMSTOWAD) project at an estimated cost of Rs. 600 crore. In June 2016, a mainline daily reported that the project cost had escalated to Rs. 4000 crore after missing two deadlines and still stood incomplete.

That brings us back to the core argument. It is high time Mumbai gets to decide and prioritise its needs – Bullet Trains or better drains.

(Views expressed in this article are purely personal)