At Home in the Megacity – Mumbai

DEKRA Insight General Manager Ronjoy Rajkhowa lives in Mumbai. A city famous for chaotic traffic.

Ronjoy Rajkhowa

Ronjoy Rajkhowa: “Traffic in Mumbai is absolutely terrible”, Photo Florian Lang

Steam rises lazily from the asphalt, contrasting with the revving of engines and frantic honking of horns. The scent of spices pervades throughout, wafting over from small stands at the side of the road selling the rice and veg snack Bhel Puri. You’d be forgiven for thinking that it would be quicker to get out and walk. But
the melee of bicycles, scooters and tuk-tuks that share the road with cars in Mumbai – India’s biggest city – make that a little too dangerous. Stuck in the middle of this eclectic convoy is DEKRA Insight General Manager Ronjoy Rajkhowa, who works in the city. Mumbai is an allegory for the upturn in India’s economic fortunes. Around 12.5 million people live in the city itself, and when combined with its outskirts, this number shoots up to 23 million. Ten years ago, it was a ‘mere’ 18 million. In another ten, it will be over 25 million. For commuters who live outside the city, such as Ronjoy Rajkhowa, this means one thing: Traffic. “I always drive to work,” he explains. It takes up to 90 minutes to complete the 29-kilometer journey from the office to Navi Mumbai, where he lives with his wife and daughter. One-and-a-half hours to travel from the booming, hectic metropolis to the relatively sleepy planned city of one million people. That adds up to three hours every day. “Here in Navi Mumbai, there is a lot of greenery,” explains Rajkhowa. That is an aspect that he misses in the megacity, a mere 29 kilometers to the West. The suburb is connected to the city by just two bridges, via which commuters must cross the Ulhas river. “Traffic could be far better,” explains the general manager, adding “but I enjoy living here.”

Traffic: Megacities’ Achilles heel

That is a feeling shared by many others. Life in megacities is becoming more and more popular, and the trend shows no signs of stopping. By 2050, 6.4 of the 9.5 billion people on Earth will live in such conurbations. That is the forecast of experts from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). In megacities such as Mumbai, this presents many challenges. In a study carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), 26 trade, financial and cultural metropolises around the world were compared and evaluated against a list of different factors, ranging from sustainability to traffic and security. Mumbai narrowly avoided ranking bottom for traffic. Only Lagos and Jakarta performed worse.

Futurologists are also grappling with the subject of road traffic development in megacities. Steffen Braun, Institute Director and Head of Mobility & Urban Systems Engineering at the Fraunhofer Institute for Labor Economics and Organization (IAO), explains: “The relevance of the car as a private vehicle will change dramatically in the future. The trend is towards communal usage.” Carpooling, carsharing and shared taxis constitute the car’s future in the megacity. “Even today, private car ownership is virtually nil in certain cities. Look at Singapore, for example,” says Braun. “I predict flexible vehicle fleets and automated mini shuttles to take the place of private ownership in a few years. In both Asia and Europe.”

Author: Daniela Lukaßen

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More reportages on living in a megacity:

At Home in the Megacity – Life in São Paulo

At Home in the Megacity – Life in Los Angeles

At Home in the Megacity – Life in Shanghai