In the 22 years since 1990, as much as 72 sq kms of land mass, which is approximately the size of present-day island city from Colaba to Sion and Mahim, was added to Mumbai through reclamation of sea and inter-tidal zones such as inlets, mudflats, salt pans and beaches.
The finding is part of a recently completed report by the geography department of Mumbai University for a study on reclamation commissioned by the state government’s advisory body Mumbai Transformation Support Unit (MTSU) as part of its larger plan to look into the possibility of scientific land reclamation in Mumbai in future.
The department has found that between 1970 and 2012, more than 113 sq km of land mass has been added to the city.
The report says that maximum reclamation in Mumbai’s history has happened in the 22 years since 1990, much of it illegally. In comparison, the reclamation was just 40 sq km in the 20 years leading up to 1990. Incidentally, since 1991, the Supreme Court-enforced Coastal Regulations Zone (CRZ) have been in force in Mumbai to protect against such indiscriminate processes.
The report, citing satellite images of 2012, says that presently 54.73 sq kms is under process of reclamation.
“This accelerated pace of reclamation is a post-globalization trend where there was little questioning of concretization of inter-tidal areas. While much of it is illegal, government agencies also reclaimed land in ecologically-fragile areas on the eastern side to dump much of the city’s poor and working class living in informal settlements as past of its urban renewal and gentrification process,” says Smita Gandhi, head of the university’s geography department. She says increasing concretisation will mar the ability of tidal waters to freely circulate in buffer zones such as salt pans, mudflats and mangroves, all of which are fast vanishing.
Reclamation in the colonial period, when Mumbai grew as a port city, and later until 1970s was mainly restricted to the island city and southern sections of Salsette i.e. the islands comprising present-day suburbs. It was done, through proper legislations, mainly to develop the city as one contiguous land mass from an archipelago of islands, to connect the suburbs to the mainland, for expanding railways and port and building commercial districts. In contrast, in the post-seventies era, land reclamation has been rampant in the northern and eastern parts of the extended suburban district.
“Since the land scam that emerged in course of the creation of Nariman Point, no official reclamation project was taken up after1970s,” says Sulakshana Mahajan, urban planner with the MTSU.
She points out that the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority’s development of Bandra Kurla Complex, its low-cost housing projects in Kalanagar and other areas were all primarily reclamation projects, continued…