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Monday, 31 August 2020

Mumbai’s Coastal Road: Making land in a drowning city

This year, as the monsoons unleashed severe flooding in South Mumbai, we were presented with standard narratives of the disaster. The bureaucracy blamed the high-intensity rainfall and outdated infrastructure; the people blamed it on a lack of “political will” and an absence of planning.

After the devastating 2005 floods in Mumbai, the Madhav Chitale Committee report pointed out that even if the entire system had been upgraded as per its new stormwater drainage project or BRIMSTOWAD, it would not have been adequate for the rainfall of such high intensity. BRIMSTOWAD was designed to deal with “normal occasions of rainfall”, not high intensity rainfall events.

The Chitale report came out 14 years ago. Since then, extreme rainfall events have become more frequent. Meanwhile, natural water courses are being filled up and diverted (disrupting drainage patterns), permeable areas are being paved and built upon (increasing run-off), coastal areas are being reclaimed to create new land (displacing water elsewhere).

Mumbai is drowning because its land is being made more impermeable, ecological systems are being built upon, and extreme weather events are becoming “normal.” Yet, instead of examining the relations between coastal communities and delicate ecosystems, Mumbai’s planners are looking for ways to make more land.

The proposal to build a...

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