Urban Pollution is a 20th-century phenomenon that was born as a resultant of a larger man-made act- the urban agglomeration. As cities were built, the issues of waste management became critical as they were directly linked to health, sanitation, and hygiene. The health and welfare of the people would ensure that the population is working towards making economic gains, which in return sustains life in a city. The most detrimental effects of urban pollution are the ones that are caused by urbanization and exacerbated due to the local concentration of humans and human activities. 

Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, is a city built on trade and finance that has grown impulsively and scattered disparately. Who knew that a group of scattered villages would catapult to become suburbs of Mumbai that one day would join the league of the largest metropolises on the planet. Due to urban expansion, some sections of Mumbai residences have fallen into a state of serious disrepair, while other areas have squatter settlements that have arisen to accommodate the city’s expanding population. Moreover, an alarming amount of air and water pollution caused by factories, congested occupation of living spaces with less or no breathable, growing volume of vehicular traffic, and nearby oil refineries. Given the astronomical land prices in many parts of Mumbai and the extreme scarcity of land, it is no surprise that the city has sacrificed its ecology for development. 

Like a virus, the urban sprawl of the city quantifies for approximately 20 million people housed in apartments, chawls, and informal fragments of slums. The greater the size, such large is the resource consumption per capita. However, researchers claim that the top 2% rich consume the majority share of the resources leading to the highest amount of pollution as well. The city is formed along the coastline on a series of islands surrounded by water in mudflats, lakes, creeks, rivers, and the ever-present coastline. 

The city’s water networks at various strategic points have been built over and choked by real estate projects, industry, and state infrastructure (railways, roads, and the city’s airport). The flow of stormwater was once slowed down by mudflats, wetlands, floodplains, mangroves, and wooded vegetation. The most effective mangrove’s complex root systems have built over, and garbage spread everywhere clogs the waterways. Most channels and watercourses that connect water bodies are built-over too, resulting in preventing streams to easily reach into the sea – forcing it to spread out into the low lying areas of the city, and hence, the city floods in every monsoon. 

Mumbai ranked no. 71 in the 2018 World Air Quality Report. Mumbai’s unhealthy air quality came in at no. 27 out of the 58 Indian cities included in the report. The coastal location of the megacity benefits from the sea breeze, which helps to eliminate suspended pollutants. Toxic nitric oxide and nitrogen oxide levels stand at 252 microgrammes per cubic meter (mcg/m3), more than three times the safe limit of 80 mcg/m3. Protests against sound pollution fall on deaf ears. There are less than 0.03 acres of open space per 1,000 people, while the global norm is four. Mumbai is the world’s eighth most-populated city – and dying to prove it. In response to this consequence, every sixth Mumbaikar lives in a slum. 

Mumbai situates on the west Konkan coast of India with a deep natural harbour. Mumbai is poised at the threshold of intensive change at the eastern waterfront. Like other European and Asian cities, Mumbai has lost orientation towards its historic city centre. At the centre, the most interesting prospects for the city have to do with reclaiming the post-industrial landscapes in the city for public use.  

Around 7.5 million commuters travel through local trains every day, while the fledgeling metro and monorail are unlikely to make a perceptible difference soon. There are 700,000 cars on the road, and the sovereignty indirectly encourages ownership of the private vehicle by adding flyovers and expressways instead of building or speeding up mass rapid transit systems. Private vehicle numbers have grown by 57% in the past eight years, compared with a 23% increase in public buses.

Currently, the city has been the centre of the pandemic: the virus has overwhelmed hospitals, emptied public spaces, and forced people inside. The pictures of deserted streets all over the world have been shared and possibly cities will never go back to what they used to be. Air pollution levels in Mumbai are dropped by 76% post lockdown. As we are at the end of quarantine and the prospect of a long-lasting crisis, urban planning is changing its dynamics. Architects are deriving new ideas to allow cities and the virus to coexist after the lockdown measures get lifted. 

Many planning and architecture firms are addressing these issues by drawing competitions on various aspects and issues faced by the city. Connection of green spaces and creating more green pockets while planning, use of resources by the construction industry are minimized and many such actions are taken in response to the severity of climate change. Bombay Greenway by Abraham John Architects is a series of urban planning and place-making interventions in Mumbai where new ideas and concepts are shared to transform the city and lifestyle. 

Author

Jinal is an architect whose goal is to create a vibrant time machine through her photography and writing for everyone to revisit some of the aspects of life. She is forever inspired by the nuances of nature and by the underpinning ideas of works of art.

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