Mumbai: City's parking woes have once again come into the light after allegations that security guards at a fire temple on Princess Street were allowing illegal parking in the temple compound for a fee. There are reports that cars driven by worshippers were turned away from the compound, while local businessmen parked their cars after paying an illegal fee to the guards.
Transport experts have said that the city's failure to create adequate parking space has led to motorists resorting to unscrupulous methods to find space for their vehicles.
The trustees of the Wadiaji Atash Behram fire temple have called for a meeting on Monday after receiving complaints from devotees. Berlin Desai, a lawyer and a member of the fire temple trust, said, "We are investigating the matter and plan to change the parking rules. Devotees have priority for parking."
Wadiaji Atash Behram
Wadiaji Atash Behram, one of the eight holiest shrines of the Parsi-Zoroastrian community, has a large parking area, which is a rarity in the congested locality. The compound can accommodate at least 20 cars. Devotees have expressed surprise at finding BMWs and Mercedes illegally parked in the compound, while their own cars were denied entry. One devotee reportedly sent a legal notice to the fire temple for violating trust laws.
"I stopped driving my car to the agiary because of the parking problems," said Raiomand Zaiwala, a lawyer residing on Hughes Road. "I have been taking taxis instead." Another worshipper at the fire temple added, "This property is owned by a religious and charity trust and cannot be used for commercial purposes."
Motorists residing in the area surrounding the fire temple stated that parking problems have worsened since the Covid-19 pandemic. Vijay Punjabi, a Nepean Sea Road resident with an office on Princess Street (also known as Shyamaldas Gandhi Road), mentioned that he has stopped driving his car to work. "There is no parking space on this road. More people are using cars after the epidemic. Earlier, I would leave my car at the Marine Drive parking lot near the gymkhanas. But that parking lot is closed due to coastal road construction," said Punjabi. He revealed that he was offered parking space at the Wadiaji fire temple compound for Rs 3000 a month.
The struggle for parking space remains a contentious issue in a city with over 4.2 million vehicles, according to the Maharashtra government's Economic Survey 2022. The number is growing by over 10% annually, as per transport experts. In an attempt to resolve the issue, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation created a Parking Authority (PA) in 2018. The PA, comprising government officers and independent traffic experts, was supposed to devise ways to increase parking space in the city. However, experts contend that not a single on-road parking space has been created. Most of the new parking slots, estimated at around 40,000 and mostly in multi-storeyed facilities built by private construction companies in exchange for extra construction area, are unused due to inconvenient locations. Traffic experts criticize the PA as a failure, with estimates suggesting that between eight lakhs to a million vehicles are illegally parked on the city's roads.