Environmental Problems of Mumbai

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Environmental Problems of Mumbai

CED

Owi Kale St. Xavier’s College

Environmental Problems of Mumbai

Mumbai- the name conjures up images of high skyscrapers, wide roads, the sea-kissed Marine Drive, a land of opportunity and enterprise. A city full of paradoxes, Mumbai is a microcosm of India in many ways. If one were to ask a set of people to describe the present Mumbai, we would get a wide variety of answers ranging from the financial capital of India to the next target of militant groups. For me, I see a city at a crossroad, deciding which direction to take. One minor part of her is decisively pulling her towards the path marked 'Destruction through development' while a major part of her wants to take the path of 'Sustainable Development' but cannot do so since it is chained to bureaucracy and politics.

The Issue
Pollution, population and lack of space have always been traditionally described as the ultimate problems of Mumbai while relegating the acute problem of environmental degradation into oblivion. However, this slowly-ticking time bomb burst into the face of Mumbai in the form of the deluge on July 26, 2005. Unlike what half the city would like to believe, 26/7 is not a sudden indicator of the environmental mess the city has got itself into. Leopard attacks in a bustling city, landslides, abnormally high temperatures in summers, erratic rainfall have long since warned the city of the impending doom. But we have chosen to ignore it all because it is more convenient to do so.

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CED In the aftermath of 26/7, several committees have sprung up enquiring into the exact causes of the deluge. They have come up with alarming results and equally alarming future prospects for certain sections of Mumbai namely the construction industry. If we do not act upon these recommendations, our city will certainly soon be history. This project has been an eye-opener for me more than anybody else. The environmental problems of Mumbai have emerged due to the creation of the city itself. The city originally comprised of seven major islands and other smaller masses of land. On its acquisition by the British in 1665, the seven islands were fused together to form the city of Mumbai. The British recognized its potential as a port and developed the city through extensive land reclamation. Thus, several small rivers and their tributaries that ran through the length of Mumbai were filled in. This depleted the areas of dissipation for the water, which is very important factor for an island city like Mumbai. Modern experts and politicians would like to blame the British for destroying the natural environment of Mumbai; however, sanction of hazardous policies and projects like the BandraWorli sea-link in the past two or three decades have done more harm to Mumbai than the 150 years of British regime. The problem is that the authorities have failed to foresee the consequences of tampering with the environment. They have consistently ignored the warnings and pleas of environmentalists. Infrastructure projects are sanctioned in the name of development of the city, hardly emphasizing on the environmental impact assessment. The government in turn is issuing environmental clearances to projects like the construction of 20-storeyed skyscrapers on the fragile Cumballa hill. The genesis of the environmental problems of Mumbai is in the fact that Mumbaikars refuse to believe it is a problem. A few of the many pressing environmental issues being faced by Mumbai have been highlighted in the following pages.

What our Brightest Youngsters think! Mumbai is surrounded by over 5000 acres of mangrove swamps spread over various areas like Mahim, Madh, Thane creek, Versova, Gorai and Ghodbunder. Of these, Mumbai has lost almost 40% to reclamation of land for construction and developmental projects. About 300 acres was sanctioned to build the Esselworld amusement park in the Gorai creek at Borivli and a golf course at Andheri. However, the...
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