Post-1947, land reclamation tripled in Mumbai: Study
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A study tracing the history of reclamation in Mumbai has shown that over the past 64 years since Independence, Mumbai has seen thrice as much reclamation as was carried out over 250 years of colonial rule.
The ongoing study by the Mumbai Transformation Support Unit (MTSU) shows that from 1700 until Independence, in Mumbai around 35 sq km of reclamation was carried out by the British government mainly for linking the seven islands that today forms the South Mumbai area. Post-Independence, once the eastern and western suburbs became part of Greater Mumbai, the reports show that large-scale reclamation was carried out both officially by the government agencies and illegally by many others.
As a result, over the past four decades the area that has been built upon in Mumbai has increased from 195 sq km to 385 sq km. At the same time, mudflats — the muddy land visible during low tides — have decreased by 63 per cent while natural vegetation such as mangroves and water bodies such as lakes and ponds have shrunk by 53 per cent over the same period.
The study is phase two of a detailed documentation of the history of reclamation in Mumbai meant to assist the state government in case it decides to carry out reclamation for infrastructure or housing projects. The first phase involved a similar account of reclamation in the pre-Independence days. For phases three and four, the state government advisory body MTSU will rope in experts to carry out an analysis of the costs versus benefits from the socioeconomic and environmental aspect.
The study has thrown up several intriguing facts. For instance, as per the Development Plan of 1964 —which was the first blueprint of future land use of Mumbai — reclamation of almost 70 sq km was suggested to tide over land paucity. However, unlike now when reclamation is not undertaken owing to environmental concerns, almost half a century ago, as per the DP, the main concern was the lack of adequate filling material needed for reclaiming the land. This was a far cry from recent years when mounds of debris from construction sites and garbage are illegally dumped along the coasts in order to reclaim land.
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