Mumbai – An Estuary in Need of Recovery

Published on August 11th, 2009 | by

Global warming continues to make the flood situation in coastal cities particularly precarious. As sea levels rise, the need for urban adaptation is becoming more and more urgent. This is especially apparent in cities like Mumbai which gets flooded during its monsoon season, each year.

photo by mohit.edMumbai gets flooded every year during the monsoon rains
Mumbai gets flooded every year during the monsoon rains

The problem is that urban development in Mumbai has not taken into account its natural landscape,” says Dilip Da Cunha, an architect and planner who is faculty at the University of Pennsylvania.

Da Cunha and his partner, Ms. Anuradha Mathur, have initiated SOAK, a public exhibition and book aimed at recovering and inventing ways of inhabiting the city as a monsoon and estuarian landscape. He maintains that Mumbai is an estuary, however the city has been built upon the assumption that it is a delta.

It is important to understand the difference between a delta and an estuary. In a delta system like Calcutta, the river dominates and flows into the sea. However in estuarian systems like Mumbai, the sea dominates and flows back into the rivers. As such, it is critical that urban developers do not deplete natural catchment and drainage areas, else water flow back into inhabited areas (originally wetlands that served as catchment and drainage channels) is likely to cause further flooding.”

The problem becomes especially pronounced with global warming. According to environmentalists, Mumbai’s flood situations are likely to increase significantly over the years unless local authorities take active steps to recover some of its natural drainage channels.


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