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Mumbai's residents take high road to work

From Mallika Kapur, CNN
  • Elevated walkways are being built across Mumbai to relieve street congestion
  • Called "yellow caterpillars" by locals, the skywalks mainly connect major train stations
  • City officials estimate that up to 14 millions trips are made on foot each day in Mumbai

Mumbai, India (CNN) -- After years spent weaving their way through the congested streets and chaotic traffic of India's commercial capital, thousands of Mumbai residents are now taking the high road to work each day.

Skywalks, large concrete and steel pedestrian highways that are being constructed across Mumbai, are the city's answer to unclogging the pedestrian arteries of the megacity that's home to an estimated 21 million.

The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), which began construction of the elevated sidewalks in 2008, plans to construct at least 36 skywalks across the booming metropolis.

Once completed, the so-called "yellow caterpillars" will connect major train stations throughout Mumbai, drastically cutting down transport times for commuters during peak hours and providing the ground-level streets below with some much-needed relief.

For years, city officials have allowed food stalls, markets and even entire shops to be built on the pavements of Mumbai.

Giving pedestrians a lift

But while the MMRDA sees the skywalks as a quick and relatively cheap way to ease the pains of the estimated 14 million trips made on foot across the city each day, not everyone is onboard with their plan.

Nitin Killawala is an architect campaigning against the city's plan. He says that in addition to being unsightly, the skywalks beginning to snake their way through Mumbai's skyline are simply unnecessary.

"I would recommend having pedestrian plazas for a few hours in the mornings and evenings," he said. "All over the world it has worked -- why can't we try it over here?"

Commuter Satya Narayan, on the other hand, sees the pedestrian highways as a major improvement.

"Now it's easy to walk -- no traffic, nothing, and we get fresh air also," he said.

For many residents of India's biggest city, it seems skywalks are already a luxury they would be reluctant to part with.