It’s a beautiful Saturday morning in Mumbai and I am standing at the foot of the stairs leading up to the Sion Skywalk at the Sion Circle exit. The skywalk’s stairs are so close to the adjacent building that they appear to be an extension or appendage of the building itself! In fact, I can just lean over and tap on the windows from the stairs if I want to.
Once on the skywalk, I just take a moment to pause and look around. I like skywalks in general as I like the pleasurable feeling of being suspended mid-air and watching the world go by. I also like the perspective that skywalks offer, almost like a bird’s-eye view. But the first thing I notice here is not the view, but the relentless noise — a combination of the roar of traffic and incessant honking. And this is a sound that threatens to bring on a headache at 9.30 am in the morning !
The Sion Skywalk, which stretches from Sion Circle to Sion Railway Station, is built at a major interchange, where traffic from Mumbai’s Western and Central suburbs meet. Inaugurated just over 2 years back, the Sion Skywalk is built in the shape of an exaggerated and a squiggly “Y” with 6 exits, of which one leads directly into the Our Lady of Good Counsel School (OLGCS). It was built keeping in mind the many schools, offices and commuters in the area and with the expectation that 50,000 commuters would use it everyday.
And does the Rs. 6 crore skywalk live up to that expectation? Let’s see…
Like the other Mumbai skywalks that I have visited, the Sion Skywalk too was practically empty. I only saw fraction of a fraction of a fraction of the promised “50,000 commuters” during my walk there. In fact, I counted only 10 people on the skywalk, including myself. Granted that, it was a Saturday and all schools in the area were closed, there should still have been a sizeable number of people using the skywalk. Also, considering that the Sion Skywalk is at a busy junction, it should not have been this deserted. But then as I saw, people preferred to cross the road and avoid the skywalk altogether. See the photograph below:
One feature of the Sion Skywalk made me extremely uneasy. The skywalk runs along and above the boundary wall of the OLGCS in such a way that anyone using the skywalk can look into the school grounds (See photograph below). While there is a security guard stationed at the exit into the school to stop unauthorised people from entering, there is nothing to stop people to photograph or video the school children inside the school compound from the skywalk. I’m sure that the school must be taking precautions for the safety of their students, but I wonder why this portion was not fully covered, like they have done at the Chembur Skywalk, which also runs by a school.
Like the other Mumbai skywalks I have walked in, the Sion Skywalk, too, is highly underutilised. But unlike the Chembur or Cotton Green Skywalk, which in my opinion need not have been built at all and are a complete waste of public money, the Sion Skywalk is needed. The problem here lies in the unwillingness of people to use it and the inability of the authorities to enforce usage of the skywalk. Also, with better planning and foresight the skywalk could have been extended up to the entrance of Sion railway station instead of being a good 50 m away !
Looking at the skywalks sprouting all over Mumbai, I wonder on what basis were the locations chosen. Were the residents and people in the area consulted? Were potential users consulted? Did the traffic police, the municipal corporation and the MMRDA (which constructed/are constructing the skywalks) coordinate with each other?
Skywalks are becoming places to rest, sleep, read, jog, a shelter for the homeless at night and during monsoons — anything other than were meant to do in the first place: connect suburban railway stations to nearby commercial areas and decongest the roads and leave it free for vehicular traffic. (Read this article for an insight into how skywalks are being used or rather misused)
Rather expensive constructions for these activities, don’t you think so?
About the Mumbai Skywalk Series
This series attempts to see Mumbai through a skywalk. To keep some sort of uniformity (and convenience), all skywalks are done on a Saturday and at approximately 9.30 am. The skywalks explored so far are:
- A walk in the sky – 1: Bandra Skywalk
- A walk in the sky – 2: Chembur Skywalk
- A walk in the sky – 3: Cotton Green Skywalk