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Voices of Mumbai: 10 Ideas for the City

Urban culture may change from place to place, but one thing is true no matter where you go: city dwellers have opinions—often, strong ones—about their city. In Mumbai, the Lab’s most recent location, it’s no different. Mumbaikars have plenty to say about their public transportation, their streets, their parks, their public utilities, and, of course, their fellow-citizens.

During the Lab’s time in Mumbai, we encouraged Lab visitors to voice those views, and received a welcome influx of thoughts on everything from public transit to rainwater collection. Visitors were encouraged to write down their suggestions for improving Mumbai, and to leave those notes in a dedicated box at the Lab’s main site. Lab interns also took cameras in hand and conducted video interviews with visitors, asking them to talk about what they did and didn’t like about the city, their favorite and least favorite urban spots, and how they would change Mumbai if they could.

Today, we’re sharing one of those video interviews (see above), plus ten of our favorite suggestions from Lab visitors. In the coming weeks, we’ll share a few more videos; we invite you to join the discussion started by these Mumbaikars and pass along your own thoughts about your city. What do you like about your urban environment—and what would you improve?

Lab Visitors’ Suggestions for Mumbai

If all the hawker stalls which are in a row on a footpath or a small lane are similarly painted, kept clean and of [the] same size, it will be aesthetically good. Take care of the hawkers. Thanks!

What Mumbai needs:
1. More public spaces (rather then malls) which all peoples can access, especially women and children.
2. Better civic sense about garbage, littering, spitting, helping people.
3. More eco-friendly initiatives including rainwater harvesting, garbage segregation, urban gardens (to grow our own veggies, etc.).
4. More and better 24/7 public transport.

I live in a city by the Pacific. I am a visitor to this city by the sea. I love going to the beach. But the beach is public property—and must be spotless—a collective sense of pride must be invested in it. I saw a man going to the toilet right beside where I was walking, beside lovers kissing, children trying to play. He lacked dignity—or the dignity was not afforded to him. Sanitation or the lack of it and a comprehensive understanding of affording sanitation to everybody is what needs to be tackled and solutions found.

Urbanization—more and more towers, more and more roads: well, if that is what growth is, where will it end? While the city spaces are misused or underused, we are constructing buildings on every patch of agricultural land. Farm houses, flats, second houses, villas, weekend homes. Almost every man with loads of money has multiple residences. It is eating into the resources of the country. One man—one home. Anywhere in the state [this] is a good idea. That’s it. Use existing spaces.

Cameras everywhere which output to digital hoardings. Digital hoardings can advertise stuff, but every time, anywhere there is red signal, cars have stopped, people can look at the hoardings [that] can beam photos of potholes and other issues that people have. Hoardings can take their input from cameras as well as cell phone texts, which people can send in. Repost potholes, pickpockets, or even something positive like a cool place you found out about.

There should be a constant check on noise levels in this city! Horns should be monitored on cars, rickshaws, and motorbikes—to NOT increase a specified decibel limit! Anyone beyond that must be fined heavily for honking aimlessly, [e]specially in no-noise-pollution zones.

Digging work on the streets in Mumbai needs to be coordinated with all the departments across the board and the buildings which will be affected by the construction work, in order to complete the tasks at one go and to avoid traffic congestions and inconvenience to the citizens of this city!

The underground metro project should be given a serious thought. Also, more lines in the railways should open up! The new projects should only be proposed or passed only after existing projects are completed. Deadline[s] should be met.

First, people need to value public spaces. Designers painstakingly plan them. I only like Mumbai in bits and pieces. I would think twice in venturing [into] areas which [have] a bad reputation ever since I have faced robbery and mugging incidents. [Mumbai is] bursting at its seams and is really scattering in an unplanned haphazard manner.

Suggestions for improvement:

  • Widening the roads whenever possible.
  • Organization of wholesale markets and the areas around them (say, Crawford/Bhendi bazaar).
  • Travel by boat, if possible within the city (say, along western [or] eastern suburbs). Churchgate – Dadan – Bandra – Tuhu – Gorai or Port Trust – Wadala – Chembu – Vashi.