NM Joshi Marg (Delisle Road Overbridge) shut for traffic. (Photographer: Chandreyee Mukherjee/BloombergQuint)

Meet The Man Who Shut Down One Of Mumbai’s Busiest Bridges

Pradipta Banerji’s investigation is only a few days old but he has already found his first culprit: a creaking 100-year-old bridge.

That’s now been shut. It will be demolished and rebuilt in two years. The problem is that the Delisle bridge, a link to the business district in the heart of central Mumbai’s Parel area, is among the busiest in the city. Its closure forced lakhs of train commuters to make way to their offices through narrow lanes, raising fears of a stampede. And those were not unfounded. Last September, 23 people were crushed to death after being caught in a melee on a narrow stairway at the nearby Prabhadevi (then Elphinstone) station.

Banerji, a professor of civil engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, is convinced that he is right. “Whenever you shut down something, there is always heartbreak,” he told BloombergQuint, speaking near the entryway to the bridge cordoned off by traffic police. The risk of a collapse is very real, he said.

“Corrosion was a major problem. It was so heavy that there was imminent danger.”
Pradipta Banerji, Professor, IIT-Bombay

Banerji was asked to study 447 bridges across Mumbai after a bridge over the tracks collapsed in suburban Andheri earlier this month, disrupting the commute of more than 75 lakh people for a day. The study would include motor and pedestrian bridges, and railway crossings, all maintained by different authorities. His investigation also uncovered other bridges that need to be fixed as well. These include the crucial ones connecting busy train stations like Dadar, Prabhadevi and Currey Road.

That’s when the Delisle bridge was thrown open for pedestrians after local politicians raised the issue. Banerji doesn’t approve of it.

Overcrowding could be as dangerous as the load of light motor vehicles, he said. For him, inconvenience is a better option than a disaster.

We wait till failure and then everybody starts blaming everyone else.
Pradipta Banerji, Professor, IIT-Bombay

Watch the full conversation here: