Why is Mumbai drowning?

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sdrainMumbai’s rains caused a lot of trouble and inconvenience to the people of the city. Due to the closure of the railways and highways, the scope of this increased and even the people far from the city were affected. Let’s understand some of the major reasons for this disaster. According to the Development plan of 1964 for Mumbai, half of the monsoon rainwater will be absorbed by the soil. However, this assumption has been broken due to the concretization of Mumbai.

The first environmental status report of Brihanmumbai Mahanagar Palika, which came in 1998-99, says that in most parts 100% of the area in Mumbai has been concretized. Hence, rain water accumulates or flows on the surface; it does not percolate into the soil. According to the first development plan of 64, four acres of land per thousand people in Mumbai should be an open space in the form of playgrounds and gardens . However, the report of 1991 says that such free space in Mumbai is now just 0.03 acre.

Mumbai is praised for being built on the reclamation made of the sea. But due to the destruction of the mountains, extraction of stone and soil for filling the sea, the extraordinary forests and biodiversity in the sea and the hills have been destroyed. Simultaneously, with each filling Mumbai has progressed towards MegaFloods Deluge.

The city drainage system was built between 1930 and 40 in most parts of Mumbai. The mouth of these systems draining out were to remain open near to the high tide water levels of the sea. This is the only way city water can get discharged into the sea.

However later on, the addiction of development has ensured that reclamation was rampant. After the construction of these reclamations, the high tide line was pushed towards the land and each one moved the city towards flooding. E.g. Bandra East and West, Govt. Colony, Nariman Point, Lokhandwala Complex, filling of Western Suburbs, Bandra Kurla Complex, etc. The last of these, ‘Bandra – Worli sealink’ bridge ensured a major disaster for Mumbai, with filling and pillars choking the Mithi river outfall.

From the catchment areas of the lakes in the north i.e. Tulsi, Vihar and Powai in the mountain of Borivali, it comes to Elphinstone, Lower Parel in the south and from the three creeks; mountains of Ghatkopar in the east, to Arya Samaj, Santacruz in the west all throughout carrying the rain water finally into the Mithi river that empties into Mahim creek. Half of the water holding capacity was destroyed by about 1000 acres reclamation (about 700 acres by burying mangrove jungle itself)

From there, it falls under the bridge of Mahim causeway joining Mahim and Bandra and goes further into the Arabian Sea adding the water from the areas of Prabhadevi, Dadar — Shivaji Park, Mahim and Bandra. This water is blocked by the sea link project.

Mahim creek and Mahim Bay comprise to form the estuary i.e. the mouth of the Mithi river, this area with mangrove forest is surrounded by the city, links Mumbai’s original islands and suburbs. The three railway lines of the city have been dug out from the wetland of Mahim creek. It is a very strong natural buffer in terms of flood prevention. But city planners do not realize its significance.

Not only in Mumbai, but all the modern cities of the world are dying due to their anti nature behavior and development. It has become extremely destructive owing to global warming. On July 26, Mumbai, on August 28, New Orleans and later Shanghai drowned in 2005.

Hurricane Harvey and Irma recently struck Houston and florida on the east coast of the US within a fortnight with astonishing wind velocities reaching 240 kmph. America is paying a heavy price for the rampant destruction caused due to the blocking of mouths of creeks, rivers and destroying mangroves for construction and building coastal roads, underground roads and railways.

floodsThe warming has become irreversible. The waters of the oceans, the ice on the poles and the other regions are increasingly vaporizing into steam. Decades of climate change have broken the balance of nature which had been maintained for thousands of years. If there is an irregular distribution, large volumes are then converted into water in the form of unprecedented rainfall that would normally fall in several months or a year, falling in a single day or within a few hours. The cities are inviting the storms by creating a low pressure belt due to the ‘heat island’ effect. Because of the rise in ocean level due to melting ice Mumbai, New York along with all coastal areas will go under water in the next 15-20 years However, we are discussing the development plan upto 2034 even as warming has speeded up. Our industry and financial sector is in oblivion. As if they are on a different planet called Mumba. Media perhaps has vested interest or because they are unaware, they too are contributing. It is important to keep in mind that your interest is not in living a modern and technologically oriented lifestyle but in remaining alive.

Historic rainfall and floods in Mumbai on July 26, 2005, were the result of the global warming. NASA and the UN’s IPCC have confirmed this. Against this backdrop, Mumbai’s development through concrete must be stopped. The metro project and particularly the underground project of Metro 3 as well as the coastal road projects need to be canceled immediately. Both these projects will reclaim the sea. The paranjape committee report (May 26, 1987) of Maharashtra government on transportation and town planning says, “No new reclamation should be allowed in Mumbai.” It is patently wrong to emphasize on cars rather than on soil and monsoon. Most of the buildings and societies are covered by concrete or tiles so that the tyres of cars do not get spoiled with mud. This sort of thinking is an invitation to the crisis.

‘Bandra-Kurla Complex’ is built on Mithi River and of course in the shallowest part of the creek. It’s height has been increased so that it along with it’s roads do not sink. Hence, in the north, Kalanagar, government colony etc. areas which bring in water went to a lower level. The level of the road of BKC is above the ground floor of the building. In the same way proposed coastal road will cause flooding all over Mumbai and the city of Mumbai will not get out of the 1flood water. Such a project is an open invitation to disaster.

Mumbai no longer needs any doing. Rather, it requires undoing. The coastal road project is disastrous for Mumbai and should be scrapped immediately. The reclamation and the road from Mahim cosway to Bandra lands end (where a bridge has not been built) is retrograde and ridiculous. Therefore, sea water enters the city through the storm water and sewage system.

The whole of Bandra — Kurla Complex (BKC) is in the main stream of the Mithi River and which is within the high and low tide lines. In such a situation, even if it is assumed that all the drains, nullahs are cleaned and free-flowing, still Mumbai is bound to drown. What is the use of pumps when the whole city is under water? Where will the water lifted from one part be dumped?

All the parts of BKC which have been landfilled and are still not built upon should be removed immediately. Land prices should not be considered.

Don’t misunderstand this as a negative thought. Use this knowledge and be realistic to think positively in terms of saving the earth. I wish to humbly say that we cannot continue to think and work in negative, pessimistic ways.
We should always keep in mind the rising temperatures. An average increase of 0. 2°C each year is leading to a rise of 1°C in five years — something that has never happened in the millions of years of Earth’s history. In barely 4-5 years from now, the rise will be 2°C compared to the pre-industrialization levels of 1750. The Paris Agreement — envisaged to save life — is turning out to be unsuccessful in controlling this rise. The human race and life on earth is on the verge of extinction.

Torrential rains and hurricanes are going to increase in frequency and severity. It is necessary to immediately exit from the killing web of development.

The process to stop the industrialization and urbanization of the world including Mumbai is essential to save mankind and the rest of the world. Only then will the carbon emissions and the depletion of greenery will be stopped. If not, then life will end along with this process of industrialization, urbanization.

The author is convenor of Indian Environment Movement / Vasundhara Andolan. The views expressed
are his own.

 Translated by Anuj Wankhede

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