Going faster

Last Updated: Sat, Dec 31, 2011 18:40 hrs

From long-awaited new roads to new places and occasions to sip wine and beer, the city has big and small reasons to look forward to change in 2012.

One of the richest municipalities in the world, with a budget larger than some Indian states, will face a hard-fought election in February. Mumbaikars are looking forward to the fun, and some are wondering whether a change of ruling party will happen. Voters may be mollified by three major infrastructure projects — a highway, a Metro line and a new airport — that should be finished this year, and that promises to make commuters’ and travellers’ lives a little easier. Apart from convenience there are also culture, luxury and entertainment, of which Mumbai has plenty to offer this year, as it does every year.

Getting around
Instead of the promised March 2012, the first line of the Mumbai Metro between Wadala and Chembur is expected to be ready in June 2012, according to Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA). The Metro is expected to reduce travel time between Jacob Circle and Chembur from 90 minutes to 44. Meanwhile, the Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar corridor should be ready by the third quarter of 2012. This 11.77 km metro line will cost Rs 2,356 crore. The new lines will reduce the burden on the local trains.

MMRDA is also handling the Eastern Freeway project, a 16.8 km, four-lane road which will this year link the former Prince of Wales Museum with the Eastern Express Highway — directly, by tunnelling through Trombay Hill and travelling over a private road (via a long flyover) on Mumbai Port Trust land. Cost? An estimated Rs 847 crore.

Good news is also awaited on the Western Freeway, a project that was recently scaled down from a series of costly sea bridges to a seashore-hugging road. MMRDA will spend a reported Rs 1,512 crore on 26 km of new roads in the city this year.

The first phase of the proposed Navi Mumbai Airport in Panvel is planned to open in 2012. The airport will have two parallel runways, each about 3.7 km long. The project was held up because of difficulty in land acquisition, delays in environmental clearance and the waterlogged soil conditions of the seashore.

Next to the old airport in Santa Cruz, a slum will be finally cleared in 2012 to make space for this land-starved airport. In the Dharavi Redevelopment Project, many families from Dharavi and some who live on airport land will be moved to flats elsewhere. The airport will grow by 276 acres.

The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival is held between February 4 and February 12. This popular street festival has in earlier years seen varied events and performances from dance and music to books and calligraphy, film and theatre, all drawing respected exponents. This year's list of participants will be available in mid-January, but the festival is sure to be worth visiting.

The 12th Mumbai International Film Festival for Documentary, Short and Animation Films (MIFF), February 3-9, will be held at the National Centre for the Performing Arts. This year the award money has been enhanced in all categories, and now totals Rs 63.5 lakh. In order to boost the market for documentaries, a section on marketing is being introduced.

Fun and luxury
The Mumbai International Boat Show (MIBS) will be held on the MMRDA grounds in Bandra, February 23-26. The number of exhibitors and visitors is expected to double from last year, a sign that Mumbai’s luxury market is flourishing even if the stock market is down. With 180 exhibitors showing power and leisure boats, potential buyers will be invited and wooed. Others will pay a steep entrance fee. Members of the world’s oldest yacht club, the Royal Bombay Yacht Club, set up in 1846, may find MIBS interesting.

In 2011 the annual Sula Fest wine festival was sold out. So this year it will be a longer, two-day event, February 4-5. Blue Frog, the music venue, will come in as partner. The result is bigger musical stars to play while visitors consume gourmet food and wine in the Sula Vineyards in Nashik. There is also a bazaar with attractions like tattoo studios, foot spas and grape stomping.

The first microbrewery in Mumbai opens this year. At a microbrewery beer is brewed the old-fashioned way, and customers can drink it on the premises. At this as yet unnamed microbrewery in Lower Parel, seven types of beer will be made.

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