A cycle track being built by the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai on the periphery of the city’s Powai Lake has attracted a great deal of criticism from citizens for its potentially adverse environmental impact. In response, the municipal corporation has provided a number of justifications for the project in a recent press release.

The primary, “positive” justification is that the cycle track is required as a much-needed community space that is open to all, it said. But the project is a planning concern, especially given its environmentally-sensitive location. The central question is: why this, here?

This question has not been addressed by the authorities. Instead, the legalistic and technological justifications offered divert debate from this central question.

I write as an urban planning researcher who believes in two things of immediate relevance: one, the urgent need to conserve sensitive environmental resources and systems in Mumbai and other cities; two, the necessity of improving Mumbai’s livability.

The first belief is foundational to a variety of commitments we have made as a nation, from the commitment to protect wetlands under the Ramsar Convention, to the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. Another belief forms the background of analysis: the centrality of social justice and equity in urban planning.

In general, I…

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