Mumbai: Mumbai coastline and Thane creek at risk due to reclamation: Vanashakti

Citing environmental damage and increased tidewater flooding in and around the city caused due to haphazard reclamation, NGO Vanashakti on Saturday wrote to the chief minister and environment ministers to call for a scientific investigation into the matter. Stalin D, director of Vanashakti has stated that these reclamations are potential threats to Mumbai and Thane creek, making the city of Mumbai vulnerable to coastal flooding.

Stalin said, "My only question is that when we are reclaiming land for projects like coastal road, where is the water in that area going. As more and more reclamation continues, the displaced water is being pushed onto the other landmasses including the Thane creek, threatening it and surrounding areas. There is an urgent need to take concrete steps to avoid loss of life and property due to the sudden rise in levels of seawater ingress. The Thane creek Flamingo sanctuary will be impacted by high levels of tidewater and the nearby human inhabitations can witness severe flooding in the coming monsoon."

Vanashakti has pointed out that ongoing reclamation for ambitious coastal road project too is a huge threat to the city's coastline.

He added, "We have been warning that reclamation for the coastal road project will affect Girgaum Chowpatty and other beaches of Mumbai. Sadly nobody took note of this and the reclamation continued. Last year was an example of what we have been warning about, Girgaum Chowpatty and parts of south Mumbai witness unprecedented flooding. We believe that the increased massive reclamation is causing a shift in the tidal pattern and is displacing large volumes of tidewater."

It is not an unknown thing that how unscientific and haphazard measures adopted for reclaiming land and the changing nature of land because of the increase in the built-up area has adversely impacted the city’s ecology, particularly its coastline. This has caused perennial flooding and devoured creeks which acted as natural drainage systems.

Even a study released by a research fellow from The Asian Institute of Technology, Malay Kumar Pramanik in February 2021, stated that about 20 per cent of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region’s (MMR) coastline is highly vulnerable to flooding during natural disasters such as cyclonic storms and from a gradual rise in the sea level.

The study on the characteristics of coastal vulnerability, correlated with the rise in sea level along the Mumbai coast revealed that south Mumbai and eastern suburbs were highly vulnerable to the combination of sea-level rise and storm surge due to unplanned development.

Pramanik in his study stated: "We identified that unsustainable urbanisation, unplanned development, and huge land conversion, combined with the destruction of mangroves, reclamation of waterways with construction debris, inadequate drainage, overflow, and absence of natural protectors over the past four to five decades has made the region highly vulnerable to flooding.”

The study revealed that south Mumbai and eastern suburbs were highly vulnerable to sea-level rise and storm surge due to unplanned development. Some low-lying areas of the central and south Mumbai, including Haji Ali, Worli, and some areas around Nariman Point to Marine Drive, could be completely submerged, it stated.

Stalin said: We are all well aware that the coastal road project has been made a prestige issue, a project that must be done no matter what the environmental cost the city will have to pay. We have urged the state government to rethink the way the project is being executed. The effect of reclamation needs to be thoroughly studied and corrective action needs to be taken the earliest."

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